5 things to know about Mazi Pilip

The GOP has selected its candidate to replace George Santos – and she’s a Democrat.

Nassau County legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip speaking during a press conference at American Legion Post 1066 on December 15, 2023

Nassau County legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip speaking during a press conference at American Legion Post 1066 on December 15, 2023 Adam Gray/Getty Images

The 3rd Congressional District is primed for a Feb. 13 special election between former Rep. Tom Suozzi and Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip following the ouster of former Rep. George Santos. 

Pilip seemed to confirm news reports that she would be the GOP’s candidate after a behind-the-scenes vetting process that came with some surprises, like the fact that Pilip is a registered Democrat. But she later deleted a statement on X that read: “I am honored to be chosen to run for the great #NY03. It is time we stop the madness in Washington and bring back strong Long Island values like respect for police, support for Israel, and low taxes. Join us.”

A level of due diligence performed by New York Republicans was necessary after the Santos debacle where, aside from the federal charges levied against him, he managed to gain support without any details of his background being vetted.

Suozzi was announced as the Democratic Party’s candidate after state party leaders felt he had the best chance – and after he capitulated to Gov. Kathy Hochul and promised to run an overtly pro-choice campaign. 

The 3rd Congressional District had been singled out as one of two swing districts on Long Island after a disappointing electoral return for Democrats in federal and local elections in recent years. Complicating things slightly is the news that new district lines will be drawn throughout the state following a bombshell New York Court of Appeals decision on Tuesday that favored Democrats. 

Obviously, that doesn’t affect the February election, but it will add color to the successful candidate’s reelection attempt. Here are five things to know about Pilip, the GOP pick.

She is a staunch supporter of Israel

Pilip is an Orthodox Jew and has been a vocal supporter of Israel’s action in Gaza since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. She told Fox Business News on Oct. 31 that the Israeli Defense Forces, “do what they need to do” in response to protests against civilian casualties in Palestine. Pilip lived in Israel and was a paratrooper in the IDF prior to coming to the U.S. The Great Neck lawmaker has also attended fundraisers for Israel and is the vice president of her synagogue Kol Yisrael Achim.

She’s a registered Democrat

Although Pilip won reelection to the Nassau County Legislature in 2023 on the Republican and Conservative Party lines, it turns out that she has been a registered Democrat since 2012. The information didn’t faze Republican officials who picked her, and the other front-runners for the nomination had their own connections to the Democratic Party. Conservative donor Ronald Lauder was undeterred by her party affiliation. The billionaire contributed her biggest single donation during her county legislature race.

She has limited experience in public office

Pilip will have been in office as a county legislator for a little over three years by the time Long Island voters cast their ballots in the special election. In that time she has become the chair of the Towns, Villages and Cities Committee in the Nassau County Legislature as well as vice chair of the Health and Social Services Committee.

She’s an Ethiopian refugee

Pilip moved to Israel from Ethiopia when she was 12 to escape possible violence against Jews in the country brought on by political destabilization. In Israel, she earned degrees in occupational therapy and diplomacy and security at the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University respectively, Forward reported. She met her now husband in college and the two settled in Great Neck where they have seven children.

She was chosen from a broad field of candidates

Pilip was chosen over multiple possible candidates, including retired New York City Police Department Detective Mike Sapraicone who himself donated over $39,000 to former Rep. Tom Suozzi during Suozzi’s time as a Congress member and during his ill-fated run for governor in 2022. Other rumored names that Pilip beat out were Philip Sean Grillo who was recently convicted for his involvement in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots and former Assembly Member Michael LiPetri who has links to Santos.