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NY Gov. Hochul backs Democrat Tom Suozzi in bid for George Santos’ seat in House

Craig Ruttle/Getty Images North America/TNS

Gov. Hochul on Tuesday scheduled a special election for George Santos’ vacant House seat for Feb. 13 and threw her support behind the disgraced ex-congressman’s predecessor, Tom Suozzi, in his bid to run for the seat on the Democratic line.

In backing Suozzi, Hochul, a moderate Democrat, set aside lingering bitterness over Suozzi’s effort to unseat her in last year’s Democratic primary race for governor. With the governor’s green light, the state Democratic Party is expected to select Suozzi as its nominee in the special election.

But while Hochul has outsized sway as the de facto leader of New York Democrats, the state party’s final selection had not yet been made official Tuesday.

Jay Jacobs, chairman of the state Democratic Party and a Suozzi ally, said the party plans to finalize its pick Thursday.

“I’m certainly not going to make an announcement tonight,” he said by phone Tuesday evening.

Hochul made her decision after calling Suozzi to a meeting in Albany on Monday night and demanding that the centrist 61-year-old Long Islander run as a strong defender of abortion rights and promise not to run ads that hurt the Democratic Party’s brand, according to The New York Times, which previously reported on the governor’s move.

“Following the meeting in Albany, where Tom made critical assurances about fighting for abortion rights and running a winning campaign that benefits all Democrats, the governor will allow his nomination to move forward,” Brian Lenzmeier, a Hochul campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

In his own statement, Suozzi said he and Hochul had a “good meeting and cleared the air.”

“I appreciate her making the time,” Suozzi said in the statement. “At a time of strong political division I offered to be another moderate voice as the governor works to solve problems and make progress.”

Suozzi was not shy in attacking Hochul last year, calling her an “interim governor,” and suggesting she was weak on crime. But Suozzi would bring a proven track record to the House race — he served three terms in Congress before leaving to challenge Hochul.

Her less-than-overwhelming victory in the general election for governor has been blamed for Democratic midterm losses in Congress. Suozzi also appeared to open up a House race to a Republican victory by challenging the governor.

Santos, who fashioned a fictional résumé for himself, had lost to Suozzi by a double-digit point margin in 2020, but ran for the seat again in 2022 and bested Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic business owner.

All told, Republicans flipped four House seats in New York in the midterms, as the GOP emerged with a five-seat majority in the chamber.