Ask the Experts

Ask the experts: What does the George Santos expulsion mean for GOP politics?

We asked consultants to weigh in on the fallout from the former representative’s lies.

George Santos leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on Dec. 1, 2023

George Santos leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on Dec. 1, 2023 Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

George Santos is officially out of Congress, ending the controversial Republican’s brief tenure representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of the North Shore of Long Island and northeastern Queens. Santos, elected in 2022, made history as the sixth person ever to be expelled from the House. 

When members of Congress voted to expel him on Friday, Santos declared he would seek revenge on fellow New York Republican Reps. Mike Lawler, Nicole Malliotakis and Nick LaLota, vowing to file ethics complaints against multiple members of Congress. But Santos’ history of lies about his background and the 23 felony charges he faces may have done damage to the GOP as a whole, particularly for Republicans on Long Island. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul has designated Feb. 13 for a special election to replace Santos, with Tom Suozzi expected to be the Democratic nominee. Republicans Mazi Pilip and Mike Sapraicone are the top contenders for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, the specter of Santos looms over the party. Will the fallout from his lies have long-lasting and damaging effects on the party?  

City & State reached out to experts about the impact Santos has had on the GOP, particularly on Long Island. Hank Sheinkopf of Sheinkopf Communications, Anthony Lemma of Lemma Strategies and Trip Yang of Trip Yang Strategies agreed to weigh-in. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

What difference, if any, will it make in Congress now that George Santos has been expelled? 

Hank Sheinkopf: George Santos’ expulsion will change nothing in Congress. There will be an empty chair and soon the Santos joke references will be misunderstood. He is now another asterisk requiring explanation in a political world in which a second equals years.

Anthony Lemma: The difference will be increased scrutiny from our political organizations in their candidate selection process. A standard needs to be established to assess potential candidates for public office and to give us the opportunity to implement certain safeguards. Robust opposition research should be done by the candidates on themselves, and submitted to the political party that seeks to give them their endorsements/party lines. The Federal Election Commission has to be strengthened to have auditing authority and oversight to investigate campaign finance reports. 

Trip Yang: It makes some difference in that the narrow Republican majority in Congress becomes even thinner. The unruly Republican House conference will be even more chaotic for House Speaker Mike Johnson to manage. The longer-term impact of Santos' expulsion is that the special election for the 3rd Congressional seat will be a key bellwether race that can help predict momentum for either Democrats flipping control of the House of Representatives or Republicans retaining power. 

The stakes in November 2024 are significant, and a lot of national Democratic and Republican Party resources are expected to be poured into this race. 

Was this the right thing to do, and does it establish any precedents?

Hank Sheinkopf: The Republican majority got a shot of smarts and sent Santos out the door. They benefited, not the Democrats. Why? By getting rid of Santos the Republicans make it much more difficult for Democrats to pick up the seat. No Santos, no issue. Makes the Republicans look like the defenders of the institution, of ethics, and of the courage to oust one of their own. Democrats might just for a moment pause and stop gloating. A gone Santos does not a Democrat replacement necessarily create.

Anthony Lemma: Of course, it was the right thing to do and it does establish a precedent. I have heard the argument that Santos had not yet been convicted of a crime at the time of his expulsion, however, that bar is too high for someone who had sunk so low. The precedent of removing a member of Congress should be based on not just court proceedings, but when the ethics committee makes conclusive findings that a member of Congress has engaged in crimes and fraud. George Santos, aside from being a national embarrassment, was removed from his committees, lost his earmarks and offered zero constituent services to the 770,000 constituents of NY-3. He was paid a salary to be a vote for the Speaker of the House, at the expense of the district. This situation should be unacceptable regardless of the member’s political affiliation or the current balance of power in the House of Representatives. 

Trip Yang: Expelling a member of Congress who has not currently been criminally convicted is a serious precedent partially because it has happened so rarely in our country's history. In the case of George Santos, bringing forth an expulsion vote after the House Ethics Committee found "substantial evidence" of crimes was absolutely the right precedent. The magnitude and depth of wrongdoing released in the report by the committee – which was chaired by a Republican Congress member – were very problematic. In addition, while the Santos saga was great for late night comedians and those aspiring to deliver a good punchline, what sometimes got lost in the political discourse is that over 700,000 constituents on Long Island and in Queens will go over a year without effective federal representation. The real issues facing residents there - such as concerns over public safety, living in an affordable home, and having access to a great education for their children - are no laughing matter. 

What impact did Santos have on other Long Island Republicans, and has this caused any lasting damage to Long Island politics?

Hank Sheinkopf: The joke is gone. Long live the laugh track. Santos won his election to Congress because eastern Queens and western Nassau are reddening by the nano-second. Said it years ago with a prediction when the so-called conventional wisdom thought the shoo-in for Nassau County DA would get his ass kicked. The usual gang was shocked. People are afraid that Brooklyn, Manhattan and Bronx crime and disorder are seeping into Nassau and eastern Queens. They worry about migrants. The fear and concern is multi-racial, multi-ethnic – and not likely to end soon. Republicans now own Nassau. What’s the correct move for the Nassau Dems, besides dumping their losing leader? Pray the Republicans run a Santos clone. Or better yet, find a fresh candidate who can duke it out as a pro-Israel, anti-migrant crime fighter, who thinks the congressional AOC-led “Squad” members should minimally be punished with a dose of arthritis of the tongue. Even with that, it looks to be tough.

Anthony Lemma: Republicans on Long Island have enjoyed an increase in momentum and political gains during the last few election cycles from local races to congressional races. Santos’ election came from Long Island voters coming out to vote on the public safety issue, and voting for a party line without educating themselves on the individual candidates. Long Island Republicans stood with Santos during the campaign having only the House Majority in mind, but were quick to disavow him as the truth about his lies reached a fever pitch – a smart political tactic heading into the 2024 cycle. The Santos Saga leaves lasting damage not only on Long Island politics, but on our national political system overall. The political representation in NY-3 could have been much different if a fraudster was not given a clear path to a nomination, and financial support for a campaign. When a candidate like Santos, and there are many others, avoid debates, editorial and other public forums, that should be a warning sign to everyone. The public trust in government on Long Island is at a low point, and it will be some time before it recovers.

Trip Yang: While Long Island Republicans will say they were some of the first Republicans to publicly call on Santos to resign, a lot of this is after the fact covering their behinds. George Santos coasted to the Republican nomination for Congress not once, but twice, and Republicans will have to answer for failing to vet Santos for years. The Long Island Republican brand - which has been on an upswing recently - will be held accountable by voters for allowing this national embarrassment to have happened. Democrats can make a credible case that Republicans are to blame for any loss of voter confidence in the democratic process.

The special election can't come soon enough.