Polls close in NY special election to fill vacancy created by ouster of Santos

NEW YORK — Polls close in a New York special election, where Democrats are aiming to whittle away Republicans’ thin majority in the US House of Representatives to fill the vacancy created by Republican George Santos’ ouster.

The first returns showed Tom Suozzi, a Democratic former congressman, county executive and mayor, leading Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian-born Republican county legislator who served in the Israeli military, by a two-to-one margin with about 6% of the estimated vote counted, according to Edison Research. The district includes a small corner of New York City and some of its eastern suburbs.

Republicans hold a narrow 219-212 House majority that has proven hard to manage, illustrated by the chamber’s failure last week to pass a measure to impeach US President Joe Biden’s top border official, Alejandro Mayorkas, which fell shortby one vote when a few Republicans voted no. The House approved the measure on Tuesday, after No. 2 Republican Steve Scalise returned from cancer treatment to cast a decisive vote.

Santos was expelled by the House in a historic vote after a nearly 11-month tenure, when his fellow lawmakers ejected him over criminal corruption charges and allegations of misspending campaign money.

Turnout, already expected to be light for a special election in February, was further depressed by a winter storm that blanketed New York on Tuesday morning with several inches of heavy snow, prompting both campaigns to offer free rides to polling places in the afternoon.

The district, which supported Biden in 2020 before flipping to Republicans in the 2022 mid-term elections, has served as a testing ground for both parties’ messaging ahead of the fall election, when the presidency and control of both chambers of Congress will be at stake.

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