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At a campaign event last month, NY-3 Republican candidate Mazi Pilip delivered a recorded address railing against President Joe Biden and accusing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and The Squad of anti-Semitism. One name that went unmentioned: her Democratic opponent, Tom Suozzi.

It was a moment that captured many of the bizarre aspects of Pilip’s campaign in the special election to replace the expelled George Santos.

Pilip’s Work-From-Home Campaign

Pilip has rarely ventured away from her neighborhood, Great Neck — an affluent area in Long Island’s North Shore. She gives press conferences at the Great Neck train station and meets with the media at her local grocery store.

This weekend, as early voting began, Pilip didn’t attend a single campaign event — even after the conclusion of her observance of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown on Saturday. It seems as if Pilip views her congressional campaign as a work-from-home job. (Suozzi, meanwhile, holds at least half a dozen campaign events each weekend.)

Campaigning Against a Caricature

On the rare occasion that the reclusive Pilip speaks, it appears as if she’s running against someone other than her actual opponent. She’s tried to paint Suozzi as a member of The Squad — an unserious contention for any observer of Nassau County politics to make.

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Suozzi is the consummate centrist. He ran to the right of the incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul in his failed 2022 gubernatorial bid. This time around, he’s effectively running as an independent. He isn’t even running on the progressive Working Families Party ticket, as has been common for Democrats.

Suozzi’s victories in nine elections in areas covered by the district reflect how its moderate politics are inseparable from his political brand. That makes him a particularly tough opponent for Pilip. And that’s precisely why she’s done everything to steer clear of the real Suozzi, campaigning instead against a caricature of him and avoiding debates.

Republicans in Washington Wage Proxy War in NY-3

Pilip has also outsourced her campaign to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The NRCC-generated attack ads and talking points are straight out of extreme conservative talk radio. They’re also out of touch with swing voters in the district who aren’t particularly fond of either Biden or Donald Trump.

Pilip, a registered Democrat who has run as a Republican since 2021, has struggled to balance her local and national audiences. For example, she told an interviewer from the local PIX11 station that if Trump were convicted, “he cannot represent us.” Then, the next week, in an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju, she described all the cases against Trump as “politically motivated.”

Meanwhile, multiple ads blaming Suozzi for the migrant crisis produced by the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) feature black women wearing the hijab, the Islamic head covering. The CLF is a super PAC tied to the national Republican Party leadership that has a long record of running racist ads.

A screenshot of one of several anti-Suozzi ads produced by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to the national Republican Party leadership with a long record of running racist ads.

The CLF’s racialized anti-Suozzi ads are no sophisticated attempt at persuasion. Most migrants are from Latin America and a growing number are from China and India. Inundating YouTube viewers with grainy visuals of black hijab-wearing women is a very obvious allusion to Squad member Ilhan Omar, whose politics and Minnesota district are far away from Suozzi.

Pilip frequently mentions Omar. And many outside the district are eager to use the Ethiopian American Jewish candidate as a media proxy against the Somali American Muslim. Ordinary constituents hit by inflation and disenchanted by the partisan discord in Washington will wonder whether Pilip, if elected, would have the time to fight for them when not engaging in sectarian warfare on Fox News.

Indeed, Pilip’s present role as a Nassau County legislator is a part-time job that she has already struggled to commit herself to. She rarely speaks at committee meetings and has missed crucial votes. If Mazi Pilip can’t make the half-hour drive to the Nassau County Legislature, how exactly will the mother-of-seven have the time serve her constituents in Washington and play the role of the right-wing media’s new star?

Pilip’s alliance of convenience with the extremist wing of the Republican Party is also a bad bet for herself. Last week, the pro-Trump, far-right agitator Laura Loomer not only called Omar a “black dog,” but also labeled Pilip an “African migrant.” (Loomer shares Pilip’s Jewish faith, but has aligned with some of the most extreme anti-Semitic white nationalists.)

Loomer’s racialized attack on Pilip was part of a larger campaign by Trump and his supporters to oust Republican National Committee (RNC) chairperson Ronna McDaniel.

The Risk for Long Island

If elected, the politically inexperienced Pilip would be utterly dependent on the MAGA-run RNC and the target of their abuse whenever she refuses to toe their line. Pilip, a registered Democrat, has struggled to articulate consistent views on major issues, including abortion. She could very well see the House seat as a part-time job merely requiring flying into Washington for an occasional vote, doing whatever her party leadership demands.

The mysterious Mazi Pilip is not only a risky bet for Long Islanders, but the type of bigotry embedded in ads in support of her could damage the Nassau County Republican Party.

While NY-3 has tilted right in recent elections, it isn’t in the Deep South. It’s upper-income and diverse, with Asians making up a quarter of the population. The area is home to tens of thousands of Jewish and Muslim voters.

Jews and Muslims in the district aren’t at odds with one another. They attend the same schools. And they drive to work in the same hospitals and medical practices in BMWs and Teslas. For decades, local mosques and synagogues have held interfaith events. They have also been there for one another in times of need. The Islamic Center of Long Island, for example, hosted a vigil with many local rabbis and other faith leaders after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in 2018.

The Nassau County Republican Party has long had positive relations with the area’s Muslims, who are centrist voters. The RNC’s racialized, sectarian playbook could backfire for the party.

Still reeling from the Santos controversy, the district’s voters and Republican Party machine could experience another case of buyer’s remorse should Pilip win.

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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