Trump who? In NY special election, MAGA talk is absent

So far in the race for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, Republicans have tried to ignore the party’s flag-bearer.

Mazi Pilip, the Republican candidate in the bellwether contest to succeed disgraced former Rep. George Santos, has declined to say whether she even voted for Trump in 2020 and said only that she will back the GOP nominee this year.

The Democratic candidate, Tom Suozzi, explained of the hesitation: “He’s not very popular. Neither is Biden. And you know what? The race really is about me versus Mazi Pilip.”

In fact, in swing races around the country that Biden won,
there’s no rush
to be associated with Trump, who grew up just outside the district in Queens.

In New York, of the half-dozen vulnerable freshman Republicans, only Long Island Rep. Nick LaLota and Syracuse-area Rep. Brandon Williams have expressed their support for Trump’s reelection. And the idea of Trump coming to stump for Pilip in the final days of the race to drum up turnout seems unlikely — as is a Biden visit to help Suozzi.

“Long Island is not blue and it’s not red; it’s swing,” said political consultant Michael Dawidziak, who has worked with both parties locally. “You can’t just embrace traditional blue or red issues and think they’re going to fly here.”

Neither Biden nor Trump is polling well in the state.

a Siena College poll last week
, Biden had his lowest favorability rating yet in New York at 43 percent positive while Trump was at 37 percent.

“We certainly haven’t reached out or anything like that,” Pilip campaign spokesperson Brian Devine said of Trump’s help for the candidate. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

But would a Trump endorsement or even a social media post help Pilip, a Nassau County legislator? Republicans said her race and theirs aren’t about the former president.

“I know oftentimes, the press and others want to make it about the presidential,” Rep. Mike Lawler of the Hudson Valley said in an interview. “That’s not what the election is about. The election is about Mazi Pilip standing up for her community, and Tom Suozzi, who’s been in elected office for over 30 years, and he says he wants to fix it? I mean, come on.”

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said Biden’s poll numbers are “in the dumpster” on Long Island, but said of any potential Trump support for Pilip, “The district has different pockets that would give different answers.”

Upstate Rep. Marc Molinaro, who lost a special election in 2022 only to win an adjacent seat that fall, waved away the Trump question. In previous races, he shied away from saying he supported Trump.

“It’s about energy and turnout,” he said of the Suozzi-Pilip faceoff. “Mazi has the energy, and Nassau County Republicans have the turnout.”

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, who as of now is expected to cruise to reelection in November, was most confident in saying any Trump role would be beneficial.

“I think it only helps drive the base out to vote. Obviously, a special election is always about turnout,” she said in an interview. “What’s great about Mazi is that she’s an independent thinker. She’s an independent woman. So I think she would welcome support from everyone across the political spectrum.”

Last Saturday, at the Nassau County rally for Pilip, no Trump mention by name did not mean no Trump-type rhetoric. Lawler called Suozzi a loser, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) asked the crowd if they were tired of winning yet.

There was one Trump scene setter: An impersonator in a red “Make America Great Again” cap outside the venue posed for photos with some members of Congress.

Then, he simply waved good-bye to some House Republicans as they fanned out to canvas in local neighborhoods for Pilip.

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