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Santos Makes Another Run for Congress

Wed, 03/13/2024 - 19:45

Former congressman challenges Nick LaLota, who voted to oust him

George Santos, seen here in a photo from his 2022 campaign for Congress in New York’s Third District.

“The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce” may be an apt description of a recent development in the race to represent New York’s First Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Former Representative George Santos, who was expelled from the House in December, less than one year after he was sworn in to represent the state’s Third Congressional District, announced last Thursday that he will challenge Representative Nick LaLota, a Republican serving his first term.

Mr. Santos, elected as a Republican in 2022, was exposed as a serial liar and fabulist. One of six people ever to be removed from the House, he had fabricated seemingly everything about himself and his background during his campaign. Following the November 2023 issuance of a damning report by the House Committee on Ethics, charges against him include conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, making materially false statements to the Federal Election Commission and the House of Representatives, falsifying records submitted to the F.E.C., aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty.

In a Feb. 13 special election to fill Mr. Santos’s seat, former Representative Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, defeated his Republican challenger, narrowing the Republicans’ majority in the House to 219 to 213. On Tuesday, Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, announced that he will resign from Congress next week, further shrinking the Republican majority.

After attending the State of the Union address last Thursday, Mr. Santos posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, that “I have made several personal sacrifices in the name of serving the American people. My promise is that I will never back down because of my love for this country.”

“New York hasn’t had a real conservative represent them since I left office arbitrarily, thanks to RINO, empty suits like @nicklalota,” he continued. (RINO is an acronym for “Republican in name only.”) Mr. LaLota, who is seeking re-election, is “willing to risk the future of our majority and the future of this country for his own political gain,” Mr. Santos charged.

“After a lot of prayer and conversation with my friends and family, I have made a very important decision that will shake things up. Tonight, I want to announce that I will be returning to the arena of politics and challenging Nick for the battle over #NY1. I look forward to debating him on the issues and on his weak record as a Republican. The fight for our majority is imperative for the survival of the country.”

Should he hold off a challenge from Mr. Santos, Mr. LaLota is likely to face either Nancy Goroff, the Democrats’ 2020 nominee, or the former CNN anchor John Avlon, who entered the race last month. The incumbent was among the Republican freshmen in New York’s House delegation to lead an effort to expel Mr. Santos.

“To raise the standard in Congress, and to hold a pathological liar who stole an election accountable, I led the charge to expel George Santos,” he said in a statement provided to The Star. “If finishing the job requires beating him in a primary, count me in.” A Republican primary election would happen on June 25.

Ms. Goroff issued a statement last Thursday. “This would be funny if it weren’t so serious to see George Santos and Nick LaLota fight to see who is more extreme,” she said. “The reality is that both oppose a woman’s right to choose, have failed to lower costs for families, and care more about publicity than getting things done for Long Island families. Not to mention that neither actually lives in the district.”

Mr. LaLota lives in Amityville. Mr. Santos lists the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens on his X profile. Though members of the House typically live in the districts they represent, they are not required to do so.

Mr. Avlon’s reaction to Mr. Santos’s announcement was succinct: “Bring it on,” he said in a statement last Thursday. 

Though Republicans have won the First District in five consecutive elections, the seat is seen as more competitive in 2024. Mr. Santos’s challenge to Mr. LaLota “is the latest glimpse into Republicans’ messy, chaotic attempt to maintain the House,” Ellie Dougherty, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman, said in a statement Friday.

Mr. LaLota was among New York Republicans elected in 2022 who helped their party achieve the majority in the House. He is also among more than a dozen Republicans elected in districts won by President Biden in 2020, though former President Trump would have won the district had the recent redrawing of its boundaries been in place at the time.

House Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats, wrote in a Feb. 29 memo that the First District “remains one of the most competitive districts in the country with a slight tilt toward Republicans. With redistricting shoring up other competitive districts and a path to victory on Long Island laid out by Rep. Tom Suozzi, HMP could re-allocate a substantial amount of resources to this district.”



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