Democrats Win Santos Seat on Long Island; House Closer Than Ever


The Democrats flipped a U.S. House seat in New York’s Long Island suburbs on Tuesday night, in a special election with national reverberations felt from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to the Washington congressional delegation. Our local Ds have much to celebrate and anticipate.

The decisive win by Rep.-elect Tom Suozzi, filling the seat of disgraced and expelled GOP Rep. George Santos, narrows Republicans’ House advantage to six seats, a 219-213 majority. It further destabilizes a legislative body already in disfunction. Republican Speaker Mike Johnson now can lose no more than two votes in House floor action. The outcome increases prospects of Democrats capturing a majority in November.

Power would flow to House members from Washington state. The New York result was a kickoff victory for Rep. Suzan DelBene in her post as chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  The DCCC poured $10 million into the race to succeed Santos. The Republicans’ nominee, Mazi Pilip, was heavily outmatched.

The Democrats spent their money wisely. They once again hit on abortion rights, an issue keyed to suburban voters in Long Island’s Nassau County.  Suozzi hit hard at Republicans for border demagoguery  — 170,000 immigrants have strained New York City resources — while rejecting a bipartisan immigration reform package worked out in the Senate.

Celebrating the win, DelBene said in a statement: “Tom Suozzi ran a formidable campaign that prioritized the issues that matter most to families across Queens and Nassau County, protecting reproductive freedom, bipartisan solutions to protect border security, and lowering costs. In Tom, voters will once more have a representative they can trust.” (Suozzi is a veteran of three previous House terms, leaving Congress in 2022 to run unsuccessfully for governor of New York.)

If Democrats retake the House, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is in line to chair the powerful House Transportation Committee.  The panel has broad influence, extending beyond air and rail travel to environmental policy.  A  former chair, Rep. Peter Defazio of Oregon, made it an instrument of progressive policy. Having batted away “Berniecrat” challengers from the left, Larsen stands to cash in on his 20 years of House seniority.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., is in line to regain chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee.  The committee is one collegial corner of a bitterly divided Congress. In the disastrous last year of the Trump administration, Smith stood with senior military brass in pushing back on efforts to politicize the Pentagon. He has foreseen climate as a national security issue, spurring immigration to the United States from drought-plagued Third World countries.

DelBene, Larsen, and Smith get less attention than Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who cuts a high profile as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. DelBene, Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., and retiring Rep. Derek Kilmer have been leaders of the more centrist, business friendly New Democrat Coalition.

A Democrat majority would influence policy. DelBene has championed extension of child tax credits and creation of nationwide children’s savings accounts. Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., has pressed to cap insulin costs for all diabetic patients, not just seniors.  The Wild Olympics bill, establishing 126,000 acres of new wilderness, would stand a better chance of passing in a House run by Democrats.

The New York election makes 2024 political trends even more difficult to predict. President Biden goes into his reelection race with low popularity ratings and public apprehension over his age. Yet, Democrats scored unexpected victories in 2022 midterm races and have since won a succession of special elections, when turnout of light-voting Trump supporters is low.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


  1. Spokane is a blue city in an E WA sea of red but Dems may have an outside chance for picking up McMorris Rodgers seat especially since hospitals in E WA now must care for women refugees from all of those right-to-life-in-the-womb-only states. Also many on the far east side of WA are fed up with Trump’s carnival of lies and cruelty. Maybe a fierce young woman Dem fighter pilot (h/t Tom Keefe) or an eloquent female ob-gyn would have a shot in the Fifth District. Of course, any candidate would need nerves of steel to serve in today’s dysfunctional Congress.


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