The candidates vying to replace George Santos in a special House election squared off on Thursday in an exceedingly bitter debate, tangling over the roots of New York City’s migrant crisis, abortion rights and, at one point, the definition of “assault weapon.”
The face-off on Long Island was the only chance for voters to see the candidates debate, and each sought to smear the other at close range. Mazi Pilip, the Republican nominee, claimed that her opponent, Tom Suozzi, “opened the border.” He called her wholly unprepared for Congress.
The Feb. 13 election is considered a tossup. A victory by Mr. Suozzi would narrow Republicans’ paper-thin House majority at a time when they are already struggling to govern. If he loses, it could signal trouble for Democrats ahead of November’s elections.
Here are five takeaways from the debate, hosted by News 12.
The migrant crisis is dominating the race.
New York is almost 2,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is clear the race has become a referendum on the influx of migrants trying to get across it. The only question is who will take the blame in the eyes of frustrated voters.
Ms. Pilip, a Nassau County legislator who immigrated from Israel, offered spare details about her own prescriptions to secure the border (she supports a wall and more border agents). But she repeatedly accused Mr. Suozzi, a moderate former three-term congressman, of siding with President Biden and far-left members of the House “squad” to encourage illegal immigration.
“Tom Suozzi opened the border. Tom Suozzi funded the sanctuary city. Tom Suozzi kicked I.C.E. from Nassau County,” she said. Addressing Mr. Suozzi, she added, “This is absolutely you; you have to own it.”
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