Tom Suozzi
Tom SuozziREUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Democrat Tom Suozzi on Tuesday won a special election in New York for the US House seat that was left vacant when Republican George Santos was expelled from Congress, The Associated Press reported.

Suozzi defeated Republican candidate Mazi Pilip, an American Israeli woman who was born in Ethiopia and who was brought to Israel in 1991 during Israel’s “Operation Solomon”.

With the win, he retakes a seat he held for three terms before giving it up to run, unsuccessfully, for governor.

The victory narrows the slim Republican majority in the House and gives Democrats a much-needed win in New York City’s Long Island suburbs.

The unusual midwinter election became necessary after Santos was ousted by his colleagues in December, partway through his first term.

Santos said before he was ousted that he will not seek reelection in 2024 but refused to resign, even after the House Ethics Committee released a scathing report that concluded there is “substantial evidence” he “violated federal criminal laws,” including using campaign funds for personal purposes and filing false campaign reports.

Santos already faces a 13-count federal indictment centered on charges of money laundering and lying to Congress in an earlier financial disclosure. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A New York prosecutor launched an investigation against Santos in late December of last year after he admitted to "embellishing" his resume.

Santos has also come under fire for falsely claiming to have Jewish heritage. The Forward had questioned a claim on Santos’ campaign website that his grandparents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.”

In another story, the site noted that he had called himself a "proud American Jew" in a position paper that was shared with Jewish and pro-Israel leaders during his campaign.

Santos later maintained that he still identifies as “Jew-ish” despite reports showing that his grandparents were Catholics born in Brazil.