Mike Johnson, other Republicans downplay losing seat in New York to Democrat

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(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday poured cold water on Democrat Tom Suozzi’s win over Republican Mazi Pilip in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, waving off the defeat despite the fact it will make their razor-thin majority even tighter.

“The result last night is not something, in my view, that Democrats should celebrate too much,” Johnson said at a news conference alongside other GOP leaders Wednesday morning.

“Think about what happened there,” Johnson told reporters. “They spent about $15 million to win a seat that President Biden won by eight points, they won it by less than eight points. Their candidate ran like a Republican, he sounded like a Republican talking about border and immigration because that’s the top issue on the hearts and minds of everybody.”

Johnson went on to attribute the loss, in part, to Suozzi’s name recognition and a winter storm in the area that could’ve impacted turnout.

“There are a lot of factors that is in no way a bellwether of what’s going to happen this fall,” Johnson said.

But Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., did celebrate Suozzi’s victory as it flipped ousted Republican Rep. George Santos’ seat back to blue and weakened the Republican Party’s majority in the chamber.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans lost,” Jeffries said on Wednesday.

He added, “Hopefully, they learned their lesson and actually stop playing politics and start governing for the American people.”

Johnson, asked if he mishandled the border issue and gave Democrats something to campaign on by opposing a bipartisan Senate proposal to implement reform, said “absolutely not.”

Meanwhile, New York Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who voted to oust her former colleague Santos, attributed Suozzi’s win, in part, to his returning to the district where he served for three terms.

“I think it was a little bit of that, you know, the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know,” she said. “They may not like Suozzi, overwhelmingly, but at least they knew who he was.”

Other Republicans, such as Rep. Marc Molinaro, said the vacant seat was going to be a challenge to win either way for the GOP. He called special elections an “uphill battle.”

“Believe me, special elections suck in New York,” Molinaro told reporters. “They have a long history of having them be very difficult. Having lost one, I know that.”

New York Rep. Mike Lawler, another vocal opponent of Santos, downplayed the election entirely.

“The Democrats spent $25 million on a special election. Let’s not try to make this into some big narrative in November,” he said. “It’s not.”

Once Suozzi is sworn in, the GOP’s three-vote majority in the House will be shrunk to a two-vote majority.

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