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Mazi Pilip and Tom Suozzi took part in their first and only debate ahead of Tuesday’s special election to replace the expelled George Santos as representative for New York’s Third Congressional District (NY-3). The debate took place five days after the start of early voting.

Suozzi holds a slim lead over Pilip among likely voters according to two new polls released this week.

A new Emerson College poll has Suozzi up by three points (50 percent to 47 percent) with three percent undecided.

The Siena College poll has Suozzi ahead of Pilip by four percentage points (48 percent to 44 percent) among likely voters. Interestingly, among NY-3 likely voters, former President Donald Trump holds a five-point advantage over President Joe Biden in the presidential election race. Suozzi — who has portrayed himself more as an independent, downplaying what’s at the moment a toxic Democratic Party brand — is outperforming the president. Trump is leading with both Republicans and independents in the district.

Pilip Waffles on Abortion

In the Siena poll, Suozzi maintains an 11-point lead over Pilip among women, driven in part by his pro-choice credentials. Pilip struggled to answer a question in last night’s debate on abortion. Suozzi, sensing a vulnerability, challenged Pilip to clarify her position on abortion as she seemed to signal she was pro-choice, while at the same time describing herself as pro-life.

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Pilip’s lack of experience, weak proficiency on key issues, and brittle temperament were on display in Thursday’s debate. She often became animated in arguments with Suozzi, raising her voice and pointing her finger at him — a clear contrast to Suozzi’s more polished style.

At times, Pilip appeared unable to distinguish whether she was partaking in a political debate or a personal dispute, overcompensating for her poor understanding of issues like gun control by resorting to animated behavior.

Suozzi Leads Among Jews, Asians

Pilip — an Ethiopian-Israeli immigrant and former Israel Defense Forces officer — trails Suozzi in support from NY-3’s Jewish community. While 55 percent of Jews in the district support Suozzi, 42 percent support Pilip. She is likely outperforming previous candidates among Jews, making this much closer than a typical Suozzi race. But the district’s Jewish community is diverse, though mainly Democratic. It includes more Orthodox and right-leaning members in Pilip’s hometown of Great Neck.

Fifty-nine percent of Jewish voters express an appreciation for Suozzi’s political moderation and believe Pilip doesn’t have the required experience for the job.

Importantly, the Siena College poll shows Jews are split equally on the question of which candidate will do a better job in shaping policy toward the Israel-Hamas war. Suozzi has a strong pro-Israel record and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has not endorsed a candidate in the race. The Emerson College poll, however, shows Pilip with a six-point edge on the question of who would better handle the Israel-Hamas war.

The Emerson College poll shows Suozzi widening his lead among the district’s Asian voters to a massive 50-point margin (75 percent to 25 percent). Suozzi has built strong ties with East and South Asian communities in this rapidly diversifying district. He has aggressively courted a broad range of Asian groups during this campaign, while Pilip has largely ignored them.

The race, Spencer Kimball of Emerson College says, “will depend on turnout.”

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.

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