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Suozzi laps Pilip in fundraising ahead of New York special election

Democrat seeking comeback raised $4.5 million to capture Santos seat

New York Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former House member vying in the Feb. 13 special election for his old seat, at a September 2020 news conference at the Capitol.
New York Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former House member vying in the Feb. 13 special election for his old seat, at a September 2020 news conference at the Capitol. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic former Rep. Tom Suozzi’s fundraising blew the doors off his Republican rival in the upcoming special election in New York’s open 3rd District seat, new disclosures show.

Suozzi raised $4.5 million between Oct. 1 and Jan. 24 and had $2.2 million for the final weeks leading up to the Feb. 13 election, which will fill the vacancy caused by GOP Rep. George Santos’ expulsion from the House on Dec. 1.

Mazi Pilip, a Nassau County legislator tapped by Republican leaders to defend the seat, raised $1.3 million between Dec. 1 and Jan. 24, and had $629,000 for the campaign’s final weeks, pre-election reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission show. 

Both parties are heavily focused on the race, which could further constrict the Republican majority in the House if Suozzi wins, or send ripples of concern about Democrats’ chances in November races across the country if he loses.

Suozzi gave up the seat last cycle for an unsuccessful run for governor. The district’s voters backed Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 8 percentage points in 2020, and running for an open seat, Santos was one of six New York Republicans in so-called “Biden districts” whose wins in the 2022 midterm elections helped to flip House control to the GOP.

Party committees and PACs have each put money into the race, with Suozzi raising $736,000 and Pilip $321,000 from them. Individuals giving less than $200 gave $521,000 to Suozzi and $384,000 to Pilip, the new disclosures show.

But candidate fundraising and spending is only one slice of the pie. Outside groups working independently can raise and spend unlimited amounts, but have to disclose spending within days of it happening to the FEC.

A search Friday morning showed $12.3 million has already been reported, with 74 percent of it going to boost Suozzi and 26 percent backing Pilip. The money is going for direct mail and text messages; phone calls; ads on radio, television and online sites such as social media; and staff canvassing.

Santos in debt

Santos, meanwhile, reported in an FEC filing on Wednesday that his campaign fund during the final three months of 2023 took in $11,000, spent $12,000 and finished with $22,000 on hand.

But Santos, who is under federal indictment for 23 charges, including wire fraud, identity theft, charging donors’ credit cards without permission and false statements to the FEC, reported that his campaign had $146,000 in debts that include legal fees and 2022 campaign expenses such as $10,000 for “election night catering.”

Despite having more debt than cash on hand, Santos spent $2,200 during the three months on meals at the Capitol Hill Club, including $1,400 on meals on Dec. 4 — three days after he was expelled.

Mary Ellen McIntire and Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.

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