Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., says he still intends to run for reelection despite being indicted on federal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds — money that prosecutors allege was intended for people unemployed during the pandemic.
He already has four challengers. The latest, Anna Kaplan, a Democratic former state senator, formally announced Thursday that she will run for the embattled congressman’s seat in New York’s Third Congressional District.
“Instead of resigning, he’s running for reelection,” she said in a video announcing her candidacy. “I’m Anna Kaplan, and I’m running for Congress because George Santos is a disgrace.”
In the two-minute video, Kaplan did not solely focus on Santos’s long history of lies and fabrications — she also zeroed in on his brief record in Congress.
“George Santos wants to restrict women’s reproductive rights. He wore an assault rifle pin on the House floor hours after a mass shooting, and he introduced a bill celebrating the AR-15,” she said. “And the Republicans in Washington are a direct threat to women’s freedom and children’s safety.”
Who is Anna Kaplan?
Kaplan, 57, was born in Iran to Jewish parents who fled Tehran after the Islamic Revolution because of religious persecution.
“When I was 13, my parents made the difficult decision to put me on a plane to America, not knowing when they’d get to see me again,” she said. “I landed in New York and found a place where women had real rights and could control their own destiny.”
Kaplan’s political career began in 2011 as a town council member in North Hempstead, N.Y., where she said she officiated some of New York state’s first same-sex marriages when the town clerk refused.
In 2018, she became the first Iranian American elected to the state Senate. Kaplan served two terms, losing her bid for a third in 2022.
She is joining a race that includes two other declared Democrats — Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan and law professor Will Murphy — and a Republican, Kellen Curry, a military veteran and former J.P. Morgan executive.
What happened to George Santos this week?
Santos, 34, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the House of Representatives. If convicted, Santos could face up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege that Santos solicited campaign funds under false pretenses and used the money for personal expenses, including to buy designer clothes and to pay his credit card and car payments. They also allege he stole pandemic unemployment insurance money.
He was released on $500,000 bond, and his next court date is set for June 30.
"This is a witch hunt," Santos told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y., on Wednesday, adding that he has no plans to resign — and still intends to run for reelection.
“I’m going to fight my battle,” he said. “I’m going to deliver. I’m going to fight the witch hunt; I’m going to take care of clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.”
When asked whether he thought he could win reelection, Santos demurred.
“That’s not up for me to know,” he said. “Elections are very tricky, and it’s up to the people. I trust them to decide what’s best.”