What a Democratic Victory in NY Special Election Means for a Narrowly Divided U.S. House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Congressional seat of former Representative George Santos was flipped by Democrats in a special election yesterday. The win for Democrats narrows an already razor-thin majority for House Republicans.

Former Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi will return to Washington after beating Mazi Pilip in Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacant seat of embattled Republican, George Santos. In December, Santos became the sixth member of Congress to be expelled in U.S. history. 

“It’s a great day for the country, for the people of New York’s third Congressional District,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D- CA) the House Democratic Caucus Chairman. “One less vote for MAGA extreme Republicans.” 

Today on Capitol Hill, Democrats were optimistic with the results heading into a high-stakes election. But Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R- LA) says the results are no bellwether for November. 

“The result last night is not something, in my view, that Democrats should celebrate too much. They spent about $15 million to win a seat that President Biden won by eight points. They won it by less than eight points,” said Speaker Johnson. “Their candidate ran like a Republican. He sounded like a Republican talking about the border and immigration. That is in no way a bellwether of what’s going to happen this fall,” Johnson added. 

Once Suozzi is sworn in, Republicans will have a six-seat majority, three less than they had in November 2022. That means the GOP can afford only two defections from party line votes when all members are present. 

Experts say it will make productivity in a deeply divided House even more difficult to come by. 

“This makes it even more difficult for Speaker Johnson to get anything done. He has to hold together his conference, which is already very divided and already cost one speaker this term his speakership,” said Dr. Todd Belt. Professor and Director of George Washington University’s Political Management Master’s Program. “If he (Johnson) tries to make any deals with Democrats to try to pad those margins, that could cost him his speakership, too.”  

Low productivity could have an adverse impact on House Republicans seeking reelection, especially in swing districts. 

“This is going to hurt Republicans if they are already being tarred by Democrats as a do-nothing Congress. And we have a looming deadline coming up with the budget bills, if they don’t get it together, this can really, really hurt them come November,” said Belt. 

Several states will also be redrawing their Congressional district maps before November. In states like New York, the new maps are expected to favor Democrats, which could leave Republicans with another disadvantage. 

“I think Republicans have to be worried in a state like New York, especially because of the changes that are going to happen to the maps, which will be much more beneficial to Democrats,” said Belt.