If some of us lacked focus before Oct. 7, Hamas’ atrocities in Israel and the worldwide displays of Jew-hatred that followed have clarified our priorities.
In Long Island’s special congressional election on Feb. 13 — and in every vote we cast this year wherever we live — our prime directive will revolve around support of Jewish interests.
“Who’s good for the Jews” — a cliche among American Jewish voters of an earlier time — may have felt overworn and dated before Oct. 7. Now it’s unapologetically back in the driver’s seat.
With early voting underway in the 3rd CD (to fill the unexpired term of disgraced Rep. George Santos in portions of Nassau County and Queens), Jewish issues are foremost in our minds. But whoever wins, the Jewish community will win.
From a Jewish-interests perspective, voters in the 3rd CD have the rare opportunity to choose between two candidates who are both entirely supportive of Israel’s interests and resolute in the fight against Jew-hatred in America.
Whether Democrat Tom Suozzi or Republican Mazi Pilip is elected, we’ll do fine. Both are “good for the Jews”:
•Pilip, because of who she is (no one should question the heartfelt support of the Jewish state or of Jews in this country by this Ethiopian immigrant to Israel who served proudly in the IDF and is raising seven children in Great Neck).
•Suozzi, because of his track-record during six years in the House and the energy he’d bring to pro-Israel Democrats battling their party’s anti-Israel radical left.
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With unique Israeli and Jewish interest assured, it’s entirely reasonable that Jewish voters in the 3rd CD (which has a history of significant Jewish turnout on Election days) may be guided by other issues, including these:
•Immigration: Suozzi claims that during his service in Congress between 2016 and 2022, he advanced creative solutions to the US immigration crisis, even working “across the aisle” with LI Republican Rep. Peter King. Pilip argues that Suozzi has supported President Biden “100% of the time” and that, to the extent Biden bears responsibility for an ever-enlarging border crisis, Suozzi does too. You decide.
•Crime. Both candidates say they are against crime and firmly support law enforcement. Pilip carries the tough-on-crime Republican label; Suozzi was the tough-on-crime candidate in his primary challenge against Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022. You decide.
•Abortion. Suozzi is a clear ally of abortion rights. Pilip says she is personally opposed to abortion but would not support a federal abortion ban. Will she stand apart from fellow Republicans on abortion or fall in line behind continued or further restrictions? You decide.
•Trump. Pilip responded affirmatively when The Jewish Star asked if she would respect the electoral process and, if a member of the House next Jan. 6, certify results submitted by the states. She declined to discuss President Trump’s effort to subvert the electoral process in 2020, and deflected a question about Trump’s legal woes by saying she would let the legal process play out. Asked whether Jews could be confident in Trump’s continued support now that Israel-foes like Tucker Carlson have displaced Israel-advocates like Jared Kushner and Ambassador Friedman in his inner circle, she recalled Trump’s role in furthering Israeli interests when he was president. She said she would support the Republican presidential nominee this year. Suozzi has a very different position vis-à-vis Trump. You decide.
[The winner of the Feb. 13 election will complete George Santos’ unexpired term, which ends in December, and run for reelection in November. The winner in November will sit in the House during the presidential-election certification process next Jan. 6.]
•Aid to Israel and Ukraine. Both candidates insist they will oppose attaching “strings” to American aid to the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Trump and the House Republican leadership have attached strings linking such aid to domestic political considerations, and the Democratic administration has linked Israel aid to Ukraine aid. Increasingly, House Republicans disagree with the Democratic administration that a robust American commitment to Ukraine is relevant to the defense of Israel and other US interests. Pilip affirmed that she supports attaching strings to Ukraine aid. Suozzi supports a continuation of emergency funding to both Israel and Ukraine. He said on Tuesday that he would back a Republican resolution to fund Israel alone (and not Ukraine) if that’s what it takes to bring timely American aid to the Jewish state. You decide.
•Party affiliation. Many Orthodox Jewish voters have gravitated to the right and favor Republicans. Pilip herself is an example of this; when she first registered to vote, it was as a Democrat (a registration she’s kept, even when twice running successfully as a Republican candidate for the Nassau County Legislature and now as a Republican candidate for Congress). Social issues and support for Israel played a role in this shift, along with revulsion at left wing Democrats appearing to have captured that party’s bully pulpit if not control of the party itself. While there is an anti-Israel and antisemitic stream in the Republican Party as well (Jewish space lasers, “Jews will not replace us”), it is discounted by those who’ve made the rightward leap. While this shift benefits Pilip, Suozzi counters that he, as a pro-Israel Democrat, would make a more meaningful contribution by helping to keep Israel advocacy bipartisan. You decide.
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With many millions being spent by national-party interests in this contest — much of it on nasty TV commercials broadcast to the entire New York metropolitan region — the Pilip-Suozzi race may be viewed as a preview, a beta test, for the big game in November, when the presidency and control of Congress will be decided. Voters in the 3rd CD should appreciate their privileged role.
Whichever candidate you prefer, if you are a registered voter in the 3rd CD, it’s essential that you vote. Voters in districts that turn out on election day literally count, and their voices can wield power between elections far more than those of voters in districts with low turnout.