If Rep. George Santos gets expelled from Congress, how will his replacement be chosen?

Written by on December 3, 2023

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Rep. George Santos, the beleaguered Republican who represents New York’s 3rd Congressional District, may face expulsion from Congress as soon as this week over suspected ethics violations and other allegations of wrongdoing.

Santos has steadfastly defended himself, including by labeling a scathing report from congressional investigators as a “smear.”

In a defiant speech on Tuesday night, he said, “Are we to now assume that one is no longer innocent until proven guilty and they are, in fact, guilty until proven innocent?”

Two previous attempts to expel Santos failed, but a third motion to remove him must be voted on within the coming days.

If he does get kicked out of Congress, who will replace him? That will depend on who wins a special election for his swing seat.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would have to call a special election within 10 days of Santos’ expulsion, according to state law.

That election would occur within 70 to 80 days of Hochul calling it, and she would not be able to appoint someone to the seat before then. An empty seat would weaken Republicans’ already narrow majority in the House.

There would be no traditional party primary where Democratic and Republican voters would choose from a list of candidates seeking to succeed Santos.

Instead, county leaders from each party would internally vote for and nominate candidates for the special election, according to New York election law. That would likely kick off a competitive courtship of local Republicans by many within Santos’ own party.

Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs told ABC News that a handful of candidates are being considered for their pick — including former Rep. Tom Suozzi, 2022 Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman and former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, among some others.

Suozzi and Kaplan have already launched 2024 primary election challenges for Santos’s seat.

Since the district is mostly in New York’s Nassau County but also includes parts of Queens, the consideration of nominees would be jointly made by Nassau and Queens Democrats, with Rep. Gregory Meeks leading the Queens cohort, in consultation with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Hochul herself, per Jacobs.

Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo told Politico in late October that the county party will “select the best candidate, and we will give 110% effort as we do in every race.” He said that the party had already heard from around 20 candidates.

A source familiar with the Nassau County Republicans confirms to ABC News that they consider around 15 candidates potentially strong contenders in the event of a special election and have been in touch with party leaders in Washington and hope to be able to produce a nominee within several days, should Santos be expelled.

Given the geographic makeup of the district, the Nassau County chapters of both parties would have the better part of the influence in who the nominee for their respective parties will be.

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