NEW YORK — With Rep. George Santos’ days in Congress apparently numbered, the focus is already turning toward who might succeed him.
Democrats and Republicans alike are lining up to run for the Long Island swing seat if the scandal-plagued lawmaker steps down or is expelled from the House of Representatives in the coming days.
If Santos does leave office one way or the other, a special election would be called to fill the seat, most likely in mid- to late February.
That would creating a rare open competitive congressional seat with control of Congress on the line. Republicans hold just a nine-seat majority, meaning Democrats could reduce that to seven by flipping New York's 3rd District.
Instead of primary elections, the candidates in the vote would be selected by the local Democratic and Republican party committees.
“We have our work cut out for us. It’s not a slam-dunk,” said Jay Jacobs, who serves as both the state and Nassau County Democratic chairman. “Nothing is a given here.”
Even if he somehow manages to stave off the expulsion effort, Santos has already said he won’t run for a second two-year term in 2024.
Here are a few of the early contenders to take Santos’ spot in Washington, D.C.:
Austin Cheng: The health care CEO from Bayside, Queens, is a first-time political candidate. He would be the first Asian lawmaker from Long Island and could run as a political outsider after the Santos debacle.
Anna Kaplan: A Jewish immigrant from Iran, Kaplan, 58, is a former state senator who previously represented much of the district in Albany. She holds more traditionally liberal positions than Suozzi, which could be a selling point.
But she lost her seat last year in the same GOP mini-wave that brought Santos into office, a blemish that insiders could hold against her.
Scott Livingston: He’s raised a respectable more than $100,000 for the race but does not appear to have a major campaign presence.
Will Murphy: The St. John’s law professor says he’s running to “restore trust in government.”
Tom Suozzi: He represented the district for three terms, from 2017 to 2023, making him the likely front-runner for Team Blue.
Suozzi, 61, stepped down from the seat to mount an ill-fated Democratic primary battle for governor, a race he lost to Gov. Kathy Hochul by a wide margin. The decision has raised the hackles of some activists who say he abandoned the seat and left it open for Santos.
He was known as a conservative Democrat who sometimes raised the ire of progressives for his moderate stances on abortion rights and other issues.
Kellen Curry: The African-American Air Force veteran who fought in Iraq was one of the earliest opponent of Santos. He launched his GOP campaign in April, before many of his fellow Republicans were demanding Santos’ ouster.
Greg Hach: The first-time candidate, father of three and personal injury lawyer says he’s running as a tough conservative to “stop inflation, increase public safety, strengthen our borders.”
Daniel Norber: Norber is an Israeli military veteran and stresses his ties to the Jewish state, especially after the Hamas terror attacks. He has said he was particularly offended by Santos’ false claims about having Jewish heritage.
Mazi Malesa Pilip: A Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia by way of Israel, Pilip, 44, represents a more diverse face of the traditionally white-male-dominated suburban GOP.
She scored a big victory to win a seat in the Nassau County legislature in 2022 and forged a wider margin in a reelection battle this month, raising her stock as a rising star in the party.
Mike Sapraicone: He’s a retired NYPD detective and security firm owner. That profile could help him press fears of rising crime, an issue the GOP has ridden to two straight years of solid electoral victories on Long Island.
With more than $500,000 raised for the race, Sapraicone, 67, has the fattest war chest of any candidate in the race, although most of it came in a loan from himself.