How George Santos Defrauded My Outdated District



How did George Santos, a Republican newly elected to New York’s Third Congressional District, on Lengthy Island, get away with working for workplace with an nearly fully fictitious résumé? The reply is a mix of Democratic complacency, Republican extremism, and media decline in a Home district that I do know intimately.

On Election Night time, Republicans swept all 4 of Lengthy Island’s Home seats. Democrats didn’t understand the severity of the loss, nonetheless, till The New York Instances revealed that Santos had lied about his schooling, work expertise, philanthropic pursuits, and funds, amongst different issues. This was no acquainted case of a politician embellishing across the edges: Santos appeared to have made himself up. On Monday, he admitted that he’d engaged in serial falsehoods, however mentioned that he supposed to affix the Home majority anyway.

I represented components of Lengthy Island in Congress from 2001 to 2017, together with, in my ultimate two phrases, many of the present NY-3 (gerrymandering has carved up the district thrice since 2000). I additionally chaired the Democratic Congressional Marketing campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. I’ve shaken quite a lot of fingers in NY-3.

The district has a little bit of glamor, right here and there, should you look intently sufficient. Sean Hannity and Billy Joel are neighbors on Centre Island, which juts like a fishhook into the Lengthy Island Sound and will be reached solely by bridge (or, should you’re these two, helicopter). Their disparate political attitudes replicate the ideological range of the realm, which swings gently from crimson to blue and again once more.

However by and enormous, the district is as regular as Santos is excessive. It’s a spot of strip malls and nail salons, good pizza and chain eating places, white picket fences and PTA conferences. It begins on the outer edges of Queens, crosses the upper-middle-class communities of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, and eventually plunges right down to include America’s first suburb: Levittown. The district is about 66 p.c white, 19 p.c Asian, 11 p.c Latino, and three p.c Black.

In each ballot in each election I ran in, voters have been left-of-center on social points, right-of-center on taxes and spending, and anxious about preserving their high quality of life. They hovered quietly close to the middle, they usually have been extra more likely to watch the local-news associates to examine climate and visitors than to be glued to Fox Information or MSNBC. The folks I represented didn’t deal with partisanship like a sport or an important facet of their personalities.

That appeared wholesome, however their mellowness may typically border on apathy. My town-hall conferences have been at all times sparsely attended. Sometimes, fewer than a dozen constituents would present up, regardless of my employees’s finest efforts to get the phrase out.

Voter disconnection have to be a part of the reason for why Santos received. Voters in NY-3 say they worth integrity and honesty, and I consider they do. However they weren’t looking out for a huckster politician; they didn’t assume that might occur right here, as a result of it hadn’t earlier than.

Average Democratic candidates have fared effectively within the area since 2000. Had Joe Biden run within the redrawn NY-3 map in 2020, he would have received by 8.5 factors as a substitute of 10.5, in accordance with Politico. This yr, most political observers seen the district as naturally Democratic, particularly in opposition to a Republican who’d misplaced his final election. That’s what I imply by Democratic complacency: the complacency of the institution.

When he ran in opposition to Tom Suozzi, my successor, in 2020, Santos was a whole unknown. I requested Suozzi if he’d discovered something of notice in his opposition analysis, however Suozzi mentioned he hadn’t bothered to do a lot. “It was the center of COVID,” he mentioned. Santos “had solely $40,000 in his marketing campaign account, and he was a nut. We ignored him and received by 12 factors.”

Santos ran once more in 2022, perhaps as a result of he understood that being ignored was a strategic benefit. This time round, the DCCC ready an preliminary analysis doc that raised loads of crimson flags. The committee turned that doc over to the Democratic candidate, Robert Zimmerman, who says his marketing campaign “was unrelenting in getting folks’s consideration.” However, in accordance with Zimmerman, the prevailing response was alongside the strains of This man isn’t going to win, so he’s not a narrative.

Solely after Santos defied expectations did that dynamic change. And by that point, it was too late for voters to react to Santos’s lengthy con. Right here’s the place media decline enters the story.

The media’s failure to dig into Santos exhibits the predicament that native newsrooms face in 2022. Newsday dominates the media panorama on Lengthy Island. And its reporters do high quality work—they turned out an necessary investigation only a few years in the past that uncovered racism within the native real-estate business. However they don’t have the sources to cowl every little thing—not even every little thing of their political yard—they usually seem to have written off NY-3 as low precedence given the district’s Democratic tilt. So did all the opposite once-mighty New York–space media operations.

Some observers have additionally criticized Zimmerman’s marketing campaign for not totally investing in opposition analysis primarily based on the preliminary DCCC venture. Maybe that criticism is justified, however we shouldn’t fail guilty the Republican Get together as effectively. Republicans accepted Santos’s narrative with out due diligence as a result of they prioritized excessive ideology over precise {qualifications}. Santos was on the Ellipse on January 6, 2021, and has even claimed that he helped arrested insurrectionists with their authorized charges.

NY-3 voters ought to have had an trustworthy selection between two candidates—not a selection between Zimmerman and Santos’s fan-fiction model of himself. Politicians embellish résumés; if that have been a criminal offense, each candidate in America could be in jail. However Santos’s lies are an assault on democratic norms. The Republicans ought to have vetted Santos. The Democrats ought to have checked him out extra totally. The media ought to have as effectively.

However now, barring a shock Santos resignation or motion following investigations by the Home Ethics Committee and the Division of Justice, Lengthy Islanders—and the nation—are caught with a congressman who’s a figment of his personal creativeness. The caucus of unhinged representatives—the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Lauren Boeberts, the Matt Gaetzes—has simply elevated by one.

It’s a disgrace for my outdated district. However it’s greater than that for the nation. This must be a warning. There have been failures on a number of ranges on this election, main somebody unfit for workplace to realize it via willful deception. The chief casualty of this election was the reality.



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