Suozzi win on Long Island shrinks GOP margin
Former U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi, Democratic candidate for New York's 3rd congressional district, speaks at his election night party Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Woodbury, NY. Suozzi won a special election for the House seat formerly held by George Santos. | Stefan Jeremiah/AP

LONG ISLAND— Democrat Tom Suozzi’s victory in a special election in New York’s Nassau-Queens 3rd Congressional District on Long Island is one more defeat for MAGA Republicans who have been losing special and local elections ever since women and their supporters rose up against the Supreme Court when it took away the constitutionally protected right to an abortion. Part of a trend?

It would be far too premature, however, to draw the conclusion that Democrat Suozzi’s margin of victory of 54%-46% over Republican first-time candidate Mazi Pilip forecasts the outcome of the Biden-Trump battle in November. A full-scale mobilization of all the anti-MAGA forces who constitute a clear majority in the country will be required to turn back the drive by the criminal fascist Trump.

Suozzi is a “moderate” Democrat who takes positions not always popular with the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His campaign reflected the unity of both moderate and progressive Republicans and strong support from labor and its allies.

Progressives like “Squad” member, Rep. Ocasio Cortez explain why they are supporting moderate Democrats, including Biden, in this election. She explained in a CNN interview recently that it is clear Biden will be the nominee of the Democratic Party and that he has been “one of the most successful presidents ever. He passed the inflation reduction act, the American rescue plan and the alternative is a 90-plus criminally indicted Trump.” She said “I know who I am voting for and it’s Joe Biden.

So-called centrist Democrats have, at times, not been as good as the progressives in pushing for unity with their progressive counterparts. In various districts across the country, progressives are being challenged by so-called “moderates” in primaries, with progressives pointing out that this hurts the unity needed to defeat Trump.

In St. Louis, for example, the county prosecutor, Wesley Bell, is challenging Cori Bush, a leader among progressives in Congress in the upcoming primary election there. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has joined with “centrist” Democrats to back his effort to unseat Bush. The AIPAC, itself a right-wing outfit that backs Netanyahu’s war on Gaza, is supporting conservative Democrats in primaries across the country and progressives would like to see more of the so-called “centrists” oppose the divisive tactics.

Other progressive Democrats being challenged by more conservative Democratic opponents, again with the support of AIPAC, include Reps. Summer Lee in Pittsburgh, Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis, Jamaal Bowman in New York, and Rashida Tlaib in Detroit.

While the Suozzi victory is a good sign of the strength of the anti-MAGA movement, the failure of some of the more conservative Democratic lawmakers to back progressives can endanger the long-term effectiveness of the anti-MAGA forces.

Suozzi made immigration one of his issues but stressed his commitment to finding “common ground” on that and other issues. He did not push for a path to citizenship for the many millions of undocumented people living and working in the country. “We haven’t had a border fix since Ronald Reagan was president,” Suozzi told the North Shore Leader, the weekly paper that first exposed the deep corruption and outright lies of his ousted Republican House predecessor, George Santos. “The Senate is close to a bipartisan deal to fix the border because the Democrats are willing to give a lot of concessions.

“And former President [Donald] Trump came out and said ‘I don’t want to give Biden a win.’ That’s what people are sick of in politics and government, not fixing the problem. I was vice-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus. We met every week to try and find common ground.”

Suozzi’s campaign slogan of “let’s fix this mess” successfully targeted the dysfunctional disaster the slim House Republican majority has produced since they took power on Jan. 3, 2023.

That includes a sham impeachment, on no evidence and by only one vote, of Biden Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The Republicans blamed Mayorkas for what they called chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border. The voters in the Third District apparently blamed the Republicans.

But, as Suozzi pointed out when Biden approved the Republican fix to the border problems, they turned tail at the behest of Trump. Suozzi’s GOP opponent faithfully followed Trump’s line and made his anti-migrant stands her main campaign theme. She lost. Now the GOP House majority will be even thinner.

Tied to other Trump policies

Besides immigration, Suozzi tied his opponent to other Trump policies, but he didn’t mention the Jan. 6, 2021, Trumpite U.S. Capitol invasion, insurrection, and attempted coup d’etat against the Constitution. The one issue both he and the Republican agreed upon was siding unequivocally with Israel in its current war on Gaza.

But here’s the trend which appears in the Suozzi win: It continues a string of successes in targeted one-issue or one-on-one candidate races, where the Democratic nominee, even a moderate, draws a clear distinction from an extremist MAGAite Republican.

Or sometimes it’s just the issue alone where the progressive trend appears. Such as the right to abortion, in red and blue states, and the right to organize, in deep-blue Illinois.

On immigration, Suozzi’s opponent was the MAGAite. Suozzi, a former representative from a predecessor district and Nassau County executive, wasn’t. For progressives, he wasn’t perfect, but he was better than the throw-all-migrants-out policies of Trump and the local Republicans.

Now count the prior evidence. Start with Ryan in New York. Then go to the Jan. 5, 2021, U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia, especially the win by the Rev. Rafael Warnock. And after the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the constitutional right to abortion, the nationwide reaction turned a 2022 Republican tsunami into a ripple—and a split Congress. Voters knew Trump named three anti-abortion justices.

There were pro-abortion referendum wins in red states Kansas and Kentucky, in Ohio twice—and it leans red–and in blue states Vermont and Michigan.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), the only statewide elected Democrat there, was pro-abortion, too. In 2023, he won re-election by 67,000 votes out of 1.4 million cast. His first victory, four years before, was by 5,400 votes out of 1.3 million. But that was before the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D), an abortion supporter, won re-election in 2022, after the decision. Virginia’s legislature went blue in 2023, halting rightist GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plans to outlaw abortion and to push “parental control”—i.e. right-wing censorship—of schools in the Old Dominion.

It’s not just abortion, either. Everywhere voters were asked to raise their state’s minimum wage, even in deep-red Arkansas, they’ve done it. And when you get to blue states, you find Illinoisans writing the right to unionize—and a ban on so-called right-to-work laws—right into their state constitution.

Purple Michigan goes blue after its Republicans go all MAGA at the top of their ticket. Voters re-elect pro-worker Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and flip the legislature Democratic, and pro-worker, for the first time in 40 years. Lawmakers there repeal right-to-work laws and improve workers comp, for starters. Ditto a progressive statewide takeover and legislative wins in  Minnesota.

Put all this together and it’s a trend. Now the anti-MAGA forces have to go out and make it happen.

This means labor and all its allies can cheer the Suozzi win and the trend it’s a part of, but then get to work.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.