While the headlines grab the presidential contest, seemingly heading to the first rematch since 1956, it’s easy to miss the other elections that continue, because, as we’ve heard ad nauseum, every year is an election year.

            Special elections are often looked at as a barometer for national moods, swings, and predictions for a much higher-stakes election. While this isn’t entirely inaccurate, it’s important to note that special elections can often tell us more about the immediate area or demographics than they can about the nation overall. Such special elections can, however, be indicators of national moods and tendencies based on the contingencies of the particular race. But putting all of our stock into one special election result is unwise, especially since both parties will tout their win or loss as a reason for them to be optimistic in November, and since November is still ten months away. Two weeks is an eternity on an election timelines, let alone nearly an entire year.

            But we also have to remember that special elections are just that: special. Turnout, fundraising, candidates, issues, and state and local environments could all contribute to an environment that perfectly predicts the next general election or completely misses the mark altogether. Gazing into the crystal ball is fun, but when today’s hot-button issues are robbed of oxygen – or just fade on their own – the crystal can quickly become shattered.

            That said, Tuesday’s special election for New York’s Third Congressional District fits perfectly in the center of the Venn Diagram. While we’ll only be able to extrapolate so much from the results, the result will no doubt give us an interim update on the state of politics in New York and in a quintessential suburban community with many similar counterparts nationwide.

            It will also tell us the state’s of the New York Democratic and Republican parties, as neither are forfeiting the opportunity to win this seat in a closely-divided U.S. House, nor are they interested in being humiliated on the national stage.

            For Republicans, holding this seat means living past the legacy of George Santos (R-Queens), the disgraced now-expelled former Congressman who flipped this seat in 2022 by nine points. Part of the flip not only had to do with the favorable state environment – and slightly favorable, albeit underwhelming, national environment – but also the fact that the seat was open and Santos had some leftover name recognition from his better-than-expected 2020 performance against incumbent Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

            Holding the seat not only means outliving the ghost of George Santos, but it also means asserting a newfound dominance of the GOP in New York. Nassau County is a fundamentally Republican area. Since 1900, Nassau County has voted Democratic on the presidential level ten times. Queens, on the other hand, has been predominantly Democratic for most of its history, last voting for a Republican candidate in 1972. The Third District is northern and parts of eastern Nassau and northern Queens.

            While the district is a key urban-suburban area in New York, the results will not only demonstrate the strength of the GOP in the Empire State, but also possibly their strength among suburban voters nationwide, a key demographic who will likely decide the next presidential election.

            The only caveat to this is that the GOP has become increasingly receptive to statewide issues under a complete Democratic trifecta since 2019, and voters, in turn, have become receptive to the GOP. The party now controls all county-wide offices in both Suffolk and Nassau for the first time in decades. Republican strength in the election can mostly be attributed to capitalization on local politics, but it doesn’t mean it can’t transpire down ballot in November. Polling has consistently shown a single-digit race between Trump and Biden in New York, with rumors swirling of a Bronx rally for the former president organized by local religious and community leaders.

            So, for Republicans, holding the district means the mandate voters have given them remains with them, and if so, Democrats have fundamental problems in New York going forward.

            For Democrats, flipping the district back means re-marketing their platform in a time when their brand statewide and nationally is hurting them. This was on full display in the 2023 local elections, as the Town Supervisor of North Hempstead, Jennifer DeSena (R-Manhasset), was re-elected by over ten points over former Supervisor Jon Kaiman (D-Great Neck), a stunning rebuke of a seasoned Democrat in a fundamentally Democratic town.

            Democrats landed their best possible recruit in Tom Suozzi, who represented the district from 2017 to 2023. He forewent a fourth term in 2022 to run for governor in the primary against Governor Kathy Hochul (D), a move which apparently soured their relationship. A career politician in Nassau County, including Mayor of Glen Cove and Nassau County Executive, Suozzi’s name recognition will probably what brings him over the finish line, if he wins.

            Republicans scored a fresh name and face in Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck), an Ethiopian-born Jew who ousted a four-term Democratic legislator in 2021. Pilip brings a fresh face to the Republican brand in New York and can accurately represent a well-educated, diverse community. Both Nassau and Queens counties have Bachelor’s Degree rates of around 40% each.

            Either candidate winning this election wouldn’t surprise us. If Suozzi wins, thank eternal name recognition and an area that leans slightly to the left, relative to the nation overall. If Pilip wins, it means the GOP has firmly solidified its hold in key communities in New York that will likely be nothing short of a humiliating reality check for New York Democrats.

            One thing is certain: the outcome won’t drastically change the composition of the House, as uncertainty within the GOP caucus on Capitol Hill makes their majority a nominal one at best. An extra Democratic seat held by a self-proclaimed moderate would not be a massive shakeup.

Previous articleAmerica the Beautiful: How History Shapes Our Electorate
Next articleP.S I Love You Day’s 2024 Theme: Love is Meant to Be Given
The Messenger Papers Editorial Board aspires to represent a fair cross section of our Suffolk County readers. We work to present a moderate view on issues facing Long Island families and businesses.