National

            The Democratic Party held its first binding contests this week with the South Carolina Primary on February 3, and the Nevada Primary Tuesday night.

            The party is conducting a mail-in caucus in Iowa until Super Tuesday, March 5, and a dispute between the national party and state party in New Hampshire delivered an unofficial result last month. The national party sought to make South Carolina the first-in-the-nation primary in pursuit of a more diverse electorate. The New Hampshire Party and Legislature disagreed, referencing a law requiring the Granite State to hold the nation’s first primary. President Joe Biden (D-DE) won a write-in campaign in New Hampshire, although delegates will not be awarded until the party’s August convention in Chicago.

            Former President Donald Trump (R-FL) handily won both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary on the Republican side.

            Biden clinched his first big primary win in South Carolina on February 3, capturing 96% of the vote and sweeping all fifty-five of the state’s delegates. Biden eclipsed 90% in all forty-six counties, with Congressman Dean Phillips (D, MN-03) and author Marianne Williamson each receiving about 2% of the vote. Neither received any delegates.

            South Carolina was a massive pivotal state for Biden in the 2020 nominating contests, as he placed no better than third in the early swing state contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

            The South Carolina Democratic electorate is home to one of the largest black voting populations in the country. With relatively small cities and some ancestral Democratic voting blocs, South Carolina is a crucial state for any Democrat seeking the nomination. The electorate is similar to other Southern states, all of which are large prizes in the contests and are likely to go to Biden.

            In Nevada, Biden also easily won the primary and dispatched his two opponents, who only pose nominal threats to his renomination. Biden is poised to capture around 90% of the vote and all sixteen counties, plus one independent city – Carson City, the state’s capital. Biden is projected to sweep all thirty–six of the state’s delegates.

            Unique to Nevada, the state has a “None of These Candidates” ballot option. That option won second place with 6% of the vote, over 3% for Williamson. Phillips, who registered his candidacy in October, missed the deadline to qualify for the Nevada Primary. A strategist working for Phillips said the campaign will “cede” Nevada, in that it “doesn’t matter.”

            Phillips earned sharp rebukes from elected Nevada Democrats, who rightfully say that the path to the White House runs squarely through Nevada.

            The Nevada contest tests candidates against an electorate of young voters, Hispanic voters, a more philosophically libertarian electorate, and an immensely-powerful urban-rural split. A state with a much more transient population than others, it can be difficult for a candidate to market oneself to this state. This made tourism and hospitality a major issue in the 2022 midterms, as Governor Steve Sisolak (D) became the only incumbent governor to lose re-election that year. He lost to Clark County (Las Vegas) Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R). Evident of the state’s urban-rural political divide, Lombardo became the first Republican in the state’s history to be elected Governor of Nevada without carrying the urbanized counties of Clark and Washoe (Reno).

            The Republican contests are a bit muddier. The state held an unofficial primary concurrent with the Democratic one. A 2021 change in state law by the Democratic-majority Legislature transitioned from the party-run caucus method to the government-run primary method. The change came in the form of other voting initiatives, such as an expanded vote-by-mail effort in the state. The Nevada GOP protested the change and will hold their own binding caucus on February 8. Donald Trump and Texas pastor and businessman Ryan Binkley (R) are the only candidates registered for the caucus. Delegates will be awarded contingent on the caucus result.

            The Nevada GOP has prohibited anyone registered in the non-binding primary from appearing on the caucus ballot, making Tuesday’s contest an exhibition match and one in which the candidates did not actually have to face off in the state.

            In a staggering blow to her campaign, the “None of These Candidates” option trounced Former United Nations Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R). The option is currently hovering at around 62% of the statewide vote, compared to Haley’s 32%.

            Trump has a total of thirty-three delegates, to Haley’s seventeen. Biden leads his party contest with eighty-eight delegates. Neither Phillips nor Williamson have received any delegates.

            The nominating contests now look to the GOP caucus in Nevada and the GOP caucus in the U.S. Virgin Islands on February 8, followed by the GOP Primary in South Carolina on February 24.

State

            The race is heating up in the special election for New York’s Third Congressional District, a seat that spans from northern and eastern Nassau across northern Queens. The seat was flipped by George Santos (R-Queens), who became the sixth member of the U.S. House – and the first Republican – to be expelled from the lower chamber in December.

            The race pits former Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) against Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck).

            Suozzi is a well-known name entrenched in Nassau politics for decades. Suozzi served as the Mayor of Glen Cove from 1994 to 2001, Nassau County Executive from 2002 to 2009, and in the U.S. House from the Third District from 2017 to 2023.

            Suozzi retired from the House to run in the Democratic Primary against Governor Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial election. Suozzi lost the primary in a landslide, allowing his open seat to be more primed for a Republican pickup. Although the national environment was underwhelming for the GOP, the New York GOP had a historic night, capturing all of Long Island’s House seats for the first time since the 1990s. Santos won the open seat by almost ten points. The Third District has a Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of D+2, according to the Cook Political Report. This means that, when averaged against district-wide results across multiple district-wide and statewide elections, the Third District is roughly two points more Democratic than the nation overall.

            Suozzi being selected by the regional Democratic parties is the best move in their hopes at flipping this seat to whittle down an already-thin Republican House majority that is virtually nonexistent when accounting for absences and moderates.

            Pilip, on the other hand, was born in Ethiopia in the late 1970s. She emigrated to Israel as a twelve-year-old refugee and would later serve in the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Paratroopers Brigade. She studied in Haifa and Tel Aviv and married a Ukrainian-American; the two moved to Great Neck in 2005.

            Pilip was instrumental in helping her party expand their control of the Nassau County Legislature in 2021, as she ousted four-term incumbent Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck) by seven points in the Tenth District. The district contains Herricks, Manhasset, Manhasset Hills, North Hills, and Searingtown. She was re-elected by a twenty-point margin in 2023.

            Pilip embodies the current fight of the GOP in New York: flipping traditionally Republican suburban communities and courting minorities and working-class voters as New York City draws ire from every corner of the state. If Pilip were to win, she would be the only black female Republican in the House and the first black Jew elected to Capitol Hill.

            Suozzi embodies the current struggle New York Democrats have: convincing voters to allow them to retain power when the state is suffering multiple fiscal and identity crises. The soft-on-crime and high taxation policies led to the complete takeover of county offices in Suffolk and Nassau for the first time since the 1960s. Campaigning heavily on disgraced Santos and certain social issues might not resonate with the electorate.

            Suozzi has outspent Pilip three-to-one as of the latest reports. Since January 24, Suozzi has raised $4.5 million to Pilip’s $1.3 million.

            Suozzi has acknowledged that the Democratic brand is endangered in Nassau and Queens. The party has spared no expenses in defending themselves from a humiliating defeat next Tuesday, February 13. If Pilip were to pull off an upset, it would be an indication of a true fundamental political shift in New York.

Local

            Congressman Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) voted against the Wyden-Smith tax bill since it did not include an increase in State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions.

            “For months, I promised Long Islanders I would vote against the Wyden-Smith tax package if it did not have a reasonable increase in the SALT deduction cap,” said LaLota. “I kept my promise by voting against the SALT-less Wyden-Smith tax bill.”

            The bill sponsored by Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R, MO-08) passed the House in a 357-70 vote, with five members not voting. In addition to LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park) voted against it. Congressman Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) supported it.

            “I support this bill’s pro-growth policies that would boost American competitiveness and strengthen Main Street while supporting families,” said Garbarino. “As Co-Chair of the SALT Caucus, I made it clear to leadership that providing SALT relief is a critical issue for my district and one that this Congress must deal with. I am a man of my word and have negotiated in good faith with the Speaker to secure a path forward on the SALT cap.”

            Republicans split 169-47 in favor, with Democrats splitting 188-23.

            LaLota also introduced the SALT Marriage Penalty Elimination, which would raise the SALT deduction cap to $20,000 for only joint filers and cap adjusted gross income at $500,000.

Previous articlePort Jeff and Mastic Beach Receive Highwater Rescue Vehicles
Next articleAmerica the Beautiful: How History Shapes Our Electorate
Matt Meduri serves as the Editor in Chief of the Messenger Papers and writer of America the Beautiful and This Week Today columns. As a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Matt has been working in the political journalism field for over 5 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, enjoys cooking and writing his own recipes, and traveling throughout the United States including Guam.