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Democrat Tom Suozzi wins special election to fill George Santos's House seat. Here's why it matters beyond New York.

Tom Suozzi during an election night watch party at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, New York, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In a big win for House Democrats, Tom Suozzi won the special election in New York's 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday. His victory over Republican Mazi Pilip means he'll fill the House seat of disgraced former Republican Rep. George Santos.

Here’s why the special election took place and why it matters beyond New York.

🗳️Why there was a special election

Santos was kicked out of the House of Representatives last December in a bipartisan vote following the release of a report from the House Ethics Committee that found there was “substantial evidence” he had violated campaign finance laws. Santos became the sixth House member ever to be expelled.

NY-03 includes the Long Island suburbs and a small portion of Queens. Voters decided Tuesday that Suozzi will fill Santos’s seat to complete the 11 months remaining in his term.

🫏🐘Who ran to replace Santos

Suozzi and Republican Mazi Pilip went head to head for Santos’s seat.

At the time the Associated Press called the vote, Suozzi had 59% of the vote, while Pilip had 41%. Pilip conceded and congratulated Suozzi. Both candidates are likely to face off again this year in November since they have both committed to run for full congressional terms.

Suozzi, a moderate Democrat, had the benefit of name recognition since he previously represented NY-03 for six years. He gave up his seat when he ran for governor, but lost to Kathy Hochul, in 2022.

Pilip is a county lawmaker and Ethiopian immigrant who migrated to Israel when she was 12. She served in the Israel Defense Forces before moving to the U.S. While a registered Democrat, she was elected to the Nassau County Legislature as a Republican.

🇺🇸Why the special election is a big deal

Since Suozzi flipped the seat for Democrats, Republicans now have an even thinner majority over Democrats in the House (219-213). That means Republicans can only afford two defections from their GOP colleagues on key votes at a time when they have struggled to maintain unity on key legislation.

House Democrats now gain even greater leverage and could force Republicans to work across the aisle in order to pass legislation.

On a national level, Suozzi's win in NY-03 could provide a messaging guide for Democrats competing in similar districts in the presidential election this November, especially when it comes to issues like immigration and border security. As New York deals with a massive influx of migrants, Suozzi held a firm line on the issue and even called on President Biden to temporarily close the U.S.-Mexico border.