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Key New York congressional district back in Democratic control after Tom Suozzi's victory over Republican Mazi Pilip

Democrats nationwide look to Tom Suozzi's victory in New York
Democrats nationwide look to Tom Suozzi's victory in New York 03:21

GLEN COVE, N.Y. -- Voters decided in a closely watched special election in New York on Tuesday, and now a key congressional district covering parts of Nassau County and Queens is once again in Democratic control.

Tom Suozzi defeated Republican Mazi Pilip in the race for the seat left vacant after Republican George Santos was expelled from Congress in December.

Suozzi returns to Congress

It's safe to say we can call Suozzi the "comeback kid" after winning in the district he's served in the past. He held the seat for three terms before giving it up to run, unsuccessfully, for governor.

"Despite all the attacks, despite all the lies about Tom Suozzi and the Squad, about Tom Suozzi being the godfather of the migrant crisis, about Sanctuary Suozzi. Despite the dirty tricks, despite the vaunted Nassau County Republican machine, we won," Suozzi said in his victory speech Tuesday night.

Suozzi will be sworn in within days to start working on the "fix" he promised voters. Suozzi's team told CBS New York he will be heading down to Washington this week to take his seat for a fourth term -- this, of course, after the election is officially certified.

"It's time to move beyond the petty partisan bickering and the finger-pointing. It's time to focus on how to solve the problems," Suozzi said.

The victory narrows the slim Republican majority in the House and gives Democrats a much-needed win on Long Island where the GOP showed strength in recent elections.

Watch Elijah Westbrook's report

Key N.Y. congressional district back in Democratic control after special election 02:12

Those who fought to oust George Santos say voters elected not to be fooled again.

"It was like Santos 2.0, another one who was not worthy of that position, had no experience. They wouldn't let her speak. They talked for her, hid her from us," said Susan Naftol, with Concerned Citizens of NY-03.

"We are not going to give up. We are going to bring common sense government," Pilip said to her supporters in her concession speech Tuesday night.

Pilip congratulated Suozzi on his victory.

Nassau Republican Party Chairman Joseph Cairo released the following statement:

"Mazi Pilip ran a top-level campaign for Congress in the 3rd district. I appreciate her hard work, as well as her dedication to Republican values and ideals. She has a bright future in the Republican Party. We will meet in the coming days to discuss her future plans and aspirations."

Democrats looking to Suozzi's winning strategy

Suozzi's victory could become a blueprint for Democrats in November. His election is reverberating around the country as House Democrats craft a strategy to try to regain control of Congress.

"The result, uh, last night is not something in my view that Democrats should celebrate too much," Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said.

Johnson trying to stick his thumb on the scale of Democratic delight that they were able to flip the seat once held by Santos. He didn't succeed.

"It's a great day for the country, for the people of New York's Third Congressional District," Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar said. "One less vote for MAGA extreme Republicans."

"The Suozzi campaign is indicative of the fact that that Democrats are in good shape and are going to do quite well in 2024," Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

"He did something that's actually very important in a campaign such as this. With pressure to nationalize the race, he focused hyper locally," said Basil Smikle, of Hunter College.

"It was arguably a bellwether for Democrats all around the country, particularly in the swing suburban areas that tend to decide national elections. And the lessons here were basically if you want to win in moderate areas, you run moderate candidates," said Hofstra University suburban studies dean Larry Levy.

Watch Carolyn Gusoff's report

Democrat Tom Suozzi heading back to Congress after defeating Mazi Pilip 02:25

Suozzi's winning strategy was a departure for the Dems -- fighting back aggressively against a barrage of attack ads.

"He hit it head-on and I think that's helped tremendously," New York State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said.

His centrist message resonated with suburbanites on the big issues:  the migrant crisis, abortion and trust.

"He's willing to work with anybody to get things done," one person said.

"He's a known quantity. I think they did not vet George Santos clearly, and Mazi wouldn't speak to the press really. She only did one debate," another person said.

"Turnout was phenomenal," Levy said.

Levy says the election shows purple swing district voters' distaste for extreme policies on both sides.

"They like people who are focused on finding compromise, solving problems," Levy said.

What does Suozzi's win in NY3 mean for New York and national politics? 04:42

The district gets to do it all over in nine months in the general election. Republican leaders would not say if Pilip will run again for a rematch.

Things will appear to be a little different in November. That is because the state's congressional districts are set to be redrawn again in the next few months due to a court order.

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