GOP Selects Ethiopian-Born Israeli-American Candidate to Fill Vacant Seat of Expelled NY Rep. Santos

Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian Jewish Nassau County legislator, was chosen by Long Island Republicans to run in the special election to replace George Santos, who was expelled after being exposed for alleged fraud and lying, including that he was Jewish.

Pilip appeared as a potential candidate to succeed Santos after his lies were discovered shortly after his election last year, and she was officially designated the candidate Thursday, about two weeks after Santos was expelled.

She will face Democrat Tom Suozzi, who is aiming to reclaim his previous seat after running unsuccessfully for governor. The date of the extraordinary election has been fixed for February 13.

GOP Selects Ethiopian-Born Israeli-American Candidate to Fill Vacant Seat of Expelled NY Rep. Santos

Pilip, 44, is an Orthodox Jewish mother of seven who served in the Israeli army as a paratrooper and pushed for improved representation of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. She has also played a key part in lobbying against the rise of antisemitism in New York following the October 7 onslaught in which Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people in southern Israel, as well as Israel’s ensuing war on Hamas in Gaza.

Pilip was 12 years old during Operation Solomon, the airlift that delivered Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1991. She studied occupational therapy and diplomacy at Israeli colleges after serving in the army’s paratroop division when she met her Ukrainian-American husband, who was then a medical student.

She was the president of the Ethiopian Student Union in Israel for two years.

“I was a voice of so many young kids who wanted equal opportunity and really my main focus was especially education because I do believe through education, you can achieve a lot and you can integrate into the society,” she said in a January interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

GOP Selects Ethiopian-Born Israeli-American Candidate to Fill Vacant Seat of Expelled NY Rep. Santos

Pilip ran for a seat in the Nassau County legislature in 2021, citing the antisemitism that her son experienced in middle school. She defeated a Democrat in 2021, campaigning by asking Jewish supporters to host her over Shabbat so she could visit synagogues. Last month, she was easily re-elected.

Pilip was one of several Long Island Republicans who condemned Santos and demanded that he quit as soon as his deceptions were uncovered.

“I trusted him, and I told people to vote for him,” he said. I campaigned beside him. And so, when you accomplish something like this, and then keep bringing something fresh about him every day,” she told JTA. “It’s making you uncomfortable because people are asking, ‘What’s up, Mazi?'” “What became of this guy?”

Pilip is a registered Democrat, according to Politico, however, she maintains her current post as a Republican and has received Republican support while competing for county office. The practice is not unheard of in states with closed primaries when so-called crossover voters who identify with one party register under another to vote in primary elections.

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