Democratic Party officials in New York held a meeting Friday evening with at least three potential candidates to replace former GOP Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from the House on Friday.
The meeting was a “screening process” to help party officials decide who will have the best chance at flipping the seat from red to blue, Nassau County Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs told CNBC ahead of time.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, planned to attend, said Jacobs. Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi also planned to be there. Suozzi held this seat, representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District, until he left to run for governor and Santos replaced him.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has 10 days to announce the date of a special election for Santos’ seat. The vote is expected in late February.
Santos’ expulsion shrunk the Republicans’ already slim House majority and gave Democrats a good chance to flip the seat in February and further weaken the GOP’s hold on the chamber.
The Cook Political Report labels the seat a toss-up. But Santos was expelled over alleged campaign finance violations and other ethics issues, giving Democrats a stronger chance of winning a special election. Voters tend to select the other party when a lawmaker leaves Congress under a cloud.
Since Santos’ New York seat touched both Queens and Nassau County in New York, both Meeks and Jacobs will be responsible for selecting the Democrat who will run. County leaders from each party select and internally vote for candidates who will participate in the special election, according to New York election law. Jacobs said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Gov. Kathy Hochul will be consulted before a decision is officially made.
“We [Jacobs and Meeks] are both committed to finding the best candidate,” Jacobs said. “We don’t want George Santos’ brother as our candidate,” he quipped.
The Queens Democratic Party and a spokeswoman for Meeks did not respond to emails seeking comment.
The screening process includes questions about whether each potential candidate would be able to raise enough money to compete and win back the district, according to Jacobs.
Suozzi was in touch with Jacobs before Santos was expelled, pitching himself as the right candidate for a special election contest.
“I’ve heard from him. I wouldn’t say that it’s constant or often, but he’s made his interest very clear,” Jacobs said.
“But I’ve heard from a number of other candidates, and some, more than I’ve heard from him,” Jacobs said, without disclosing the names of the other contenders.
A spokeswoman for Suozzi declined to comment and referred CNBC to Suozzi’s tweet on the expulsion.