The bare facts say the special congressional election on Long Island pits Democratic nominee Tom Suozzi against Republican nominee Mazi Pilip.

In truth, the election is a mini national referendum on Joe Biden’s presidency and the Democratic Party.

Look at it this way: If you think it was a great idea to throw open the southern border and admit millions of unvetted foreigners, that Bidenomics is a cure for the economy, that crime in New York is under control and that America remains an unrivaled superpower, stick with the devil you know and vote for Suozzi.

If, on the other hand, you think the national culture is collapsing and the country is going to hell in a handbasket largely because Democrats in City Hall, Albany and Washington have gone way too far left, then Pilip is your clear choice.

She would be mine if I lived in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which is centered on Nassau County and includes parts of Queens. Election day is Tuesday, but early voting has started.

Both parties recognize the stakes and are pouring millions into the race. Suozzi’s backers reportedly booked nearly $10 million in TV ad buys, about twice what Republicans are spending on Pilip.

Making a choice based primarily on party affiliation is not my usual approach, but this face-off is special in more ways than one.

House in the balance

Scheduled after Republican George Santos, fabulist extraordinaire, was expelled from Congress after being indicted on a slew of federal charges, the election comes as the GOP House majority threatens to shrink below the horizon.

Keeping the seat in GOP hands for the rest of the congressional session will help the party block any more wacky White House legislation.

That could include the Frankenstein-like immigration bill crafted in the Senate. Speaker Mike Johnson promised it would be dead on arrival in the House, but only if the GOP can stay in the majority.

Yet there is even more at stake than legislation. The decline in New York and around the country is not just something that happened coincidentally under a Democratic president and one-party rule in Albany and City Hall. 

The decline was caused by policy choices that failed spectacularly, yet there is no intent to change course by Biden, Gov. Hochul or City Hall.

Instead, taxpayers are promised things will get better if only we give the same government that caused the problems more money and more power.

They fear-monger about a dystopian future that can be avoided only if the middle and working classes accept a lower quality of life.

Schools are dumbed down so nobody fails and criminals are cut loose because it’s racist to hold individuals accountable for their actions.

Antisemitism is breaking out everywhere, especially on elite college campuses. And Biden, assuming he’s compos mentis, doesn’t denounce it, lest it alienate his party’s core backers among Muslim Americans and voters under 30.

Pilip’s brave history

If you dare to disagree with any of this, you’re dangerous and maybe even — horror of horrors — a MAGA Republican. In that case, you might get a knock on the door from the FBI.

For all those reasons, this election matters. It’s an opportunity to send a loud message to Biden and Dems.

That’s doubly true because, even though the boundaries changed before Santos was elected, Biden carried the district by 10 points over Donald Trump in 2020.

Those are reasons enough to vote for Mazi Pilip even if she were an average candidate. But she’s way above that and has the makings of a star.

Her story is extraordinary. Born in Ethiopia, her family was part of the emergency rescue that saw more than 14,000 endangered Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel over two days in May 1991.

Mazi was 12, and after high school, served her required stint in the Israel Defense Forces as a gunsmith in a paratroopers unit. She then got a college degree in occupational therapy and a master’s in diplomacy and security.

She and her husband, Adalbert Pilip, a Ukrainian-born cardiologist, met in college and moved to New York in 2005. Their seven children range in age from 16 to 2-year-old twins.

Pilip was elected to the Nassau County Legislature in 2021, defeating a four-term incumbent, and re-elected last year. Even though she remains registered as a Democrat, she ran on the GOP and Conservative lines.

She’s often asked why she’s never changed her registration, and she told me she finally will after the election.

“The Democrats are going in the wrong direction,” she said during an interview.

“They don’t represent my values anymore.”

Twice an immigrant who holds American and Israeli citizenship, she’s pro-life and a hawk on border security. She calls what Biden did in dropping the restrictions Trump put in place “insane” and cites not only the millions who have crossed, but also the drug deaths from fentanyl and the hundreds of people arrested who are on the terror watch list.

“People have lost faith in politics,” she says, painting herself as an outsider with common sense.
Although she once said she wouldn’t back Trump if he’s convicted of a felony, she also told me she would absolutely support him if he gets the party nomination. When I pressed her on the contradiction, she repeated her pledge of support if he’s the nominee.

Her policy goals

One of her passions is changing the federal tax structure to restore the full deductibility of all state and local taxes, which is now limited to $10,000. It’s a very big issue on Long Island because of high property taxes, but a long shot in Congress because it would be a major hit to the federal budget that mostly benefits relatively wealthy Americans.

And to keep the restoration from adding to the deficit, it would have to be offset by tax increases elsewhere, an uphill battle among her GOP colleagues.

Nonetheless, she is determined, saying, “It’s very hard to be a New Yorker. It’s not affordable.”

She’s right about that.

Our conversation inevitably got to Israel, where she still has family in the military. We shared dismay over Biden’s pandering to Muslim voters by pushing for a Palestinian state, especially while the war is far from finished.

Pilip, who is Orthodox, said she always supported the two-state solution, but “absolutely not after Oct. 7,” adding that “Hamas killed the two-state solution.”

She calls Suozzi, who was Nassau County executive and served in Congress before resigning to run for governor, a career pol. He was a steady Biden voter and once suggested he become an honorary member of the radical “Squad.”

But Suozzi has generally been a moderate Dem and even challenged Hochul for the 2022 nomination, running as a centrist.

It’s telling he got just 13% of the vote, reflecting how far left Democrats have strayed and how little influence he had from within.

Count that as another reason why Mazi Pilip is the right choice now.

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