Why Ap Declared Tom Suozzi The Winner Of The George Santos Seat: Race Call Explained

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi speaks during a campaign canvass kick off event, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Plainview N.Y. The race to replace disgraced former Rep. George Santos pits Democrat congressional candidate Suozzi against Republican Mazi Pilip in New York's 3rd district. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi speaks during a campaign canvass kick off event, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Plainview N.Y. The race to replace disgraced former Rep. George Santos pits Democrat congressional candidate Suozzi against Republican Mazi Pilip in New York's 3rd district. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi will return to Congress to replace Republican George Santos, whose 11 months representing New York’s third congressional district was marked by numerous ethics scandals and ended with his expulsion in December. Suozzi’s victory helps Democrats chip away at an already narrow Republican majority in the U.S. House.

The Associated Press declared Suozzi the winner at 10:03 p.m. based on an analysis of partial vote results showing him with a decisive lead in Queens and enough of a lead in Nassau County to withstand the expected boost that Republican nominee Mazi Pilip would get from votes cast on Election Day that had yet to be tabulated. At the time the call was made, Suozzi had 59% of the district-wide vote, compared to 41% for Pilip.

Suozzi took an early lead in the first reports of the night from Queens, which tends to report votes faster than the portion of the district located in Nassau County and is also friendlier electoral territory for Democrats. The first results of the night usually include ballots cast before Election Day. In subsequent batches of votes — which usually include more Election Day votes — Suozzi's advantage shrank somewhat, but he still maintained his strong overall lead. Since the issue of early voting became highly politicized in the 2020 presidential election, votes cast before Election Day have tended to favor Democrats, while votes cast on Election Day have tended to favor Republicans.

Pilip initially held a narrow lead in Nassau County in the first batches of results collected from individual precincts there. When the county released a large batch of votes that likely included the bulk of the ballots cast before Election Day, Suozzi took the lead from Pilip in Nassau, which made up about 82% of the total vote in the 2022 general election. The earlier results from individual precincts showed her far underperforming the level of support she would need from Election Day votes to overtake Suozzi.

At the time Suozzi was declared the winner, Pilip would have needed to win about 60% of the remaining votes in order to close the gap but was far underperforming that benchmark in almost every update. The bulk of the outstanding vote was from Nassau County, where Pilip was trailing at 42% of the vote. She was performing even worse in Queens, with only 38% of the vote.

Republicans had fared well in District 3 under its current boundaries, particularly in Nassau County. Both Santos and Lee Zeldin, the 2022 GOP nominee for governor, received a higher share of the vote and had bigger vote margins in Nassau County than they did districtwide.

The magnitude of Suozzi’s lead in Queens meant that he could afford to narrowly lose Nassau County and still win the race.

With Suozzi's win, Republicans' slim majority in the U.S. House will shrink to 219-213 with three vacancies.