For the past two months, much ink has been spilled on the special election in New York’s 3rd District. Both parties have spent millions of dollars trying to win the battleground Long Island seat that will determine how much leeway Speaker Mike Johnson has this year.
But it’s important to remember as results trickle in tonight that the battle between former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Republican Mazi Pilip is an intensely local affair. While there are major implications for House margins given the narrow GOP majority, it may be a mistake to forecast November’s results based on the NY-3 tally. Here’s why:
Low turnout: A February House election will only motivate the most die-hard party loyalists to come to the polls. Both candidates expect turnout to be anemic — in the words of Suozzi, “very low, low, low, low” — and thus the electorate won’t be representative of the November election.
Plus, there are eight inches of snow forecasted!
The party machine: As Nick Fandos of the New York Times summed up on Monday, the vaunted Nassau County GOP machine is working overtime to deliver Pilip the win. Nassau County is one of the last places in the country where a machine operates so efficiently. This type of voter turnout operation isn’t easily replicated elsewhere in the nation.
The issue set: Yes, Republicans are running on the message that every district is now a border district thanks to the problems at the U.S.-Mexico border. But the migrant crisis is particularly pronounced in New York City and its surrounding suburbs.
The media market is filled with stories on NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ pleas for federal help to contain the surge in migrants. There’s a center to house migrants in the district that’s attracted controversy. And weeks before the election, the alleged assault on NYPD cops by migrants in Times Square dominated the airwaves.
Why it still matters: All that being said, it’s nonetheless notable that Democrats are spending so heavily on a seat that voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 by eight points. And it’s clear that immigration — an issue that has traditionally favored Republicans — will be front and center on the campaign trail between now and November.
— Max Cohen