If he is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 3, candidate George Santos of Queens would be the first openly gay person to serve New York’s 3rd District.
“I’m a gay Republican in New York State,” Santos said in an interview over Zoom. “I am probably a walking, living, breathing contradiction.”
The 3rd District, which Santos is running to represent, includes Manhasset, Roslyn, Port Washington, Great Neck, and Floral Park, among other areas, and stretches from Whitestone, Queens to Kings Park in Suffolk County. It is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), the former mayor of Glen Cove and former Nassau County executive who was first elected to the seat in 2016, won re-election in 2018, and is seeking another term this year after winning the Democratic primary over Melanie D’Arrigo of Port Washington and Michael Weinstock of Great Neck in June.
Santos, who was confirmed as the Republican nominee for the seat in February, was born in Jackson Heights and raised in various neighborhoods in the borough by his parents, both emigrants from Brazil.
A graduate of Baruch College with a degree in economics and finance, Santos began his professional career at Citigroup in its real assets division, then moved to Turkey-based hospitality firm Metglobal.
He briefly worked at Goldman Sachs before joining LinkBridge Investors, and now serves as the regional director of Harbor City Capital, an alternative investment group.
Earlier in the year, Santos’ campaign announced that the candidate had tested positive for COVID-19, one of the first confirmed cases in the borough of Queens.
“I was treated at Elmhurst Hospital and then at home, with nothing but a recommendation to take something for the fever, specifically Advil or Aleve,” Santos said. “I followed those instructions, and I had probably the worst two weeks of my life as an adult.”
Due to underlying medical conditions that leave him with only 70 percent function in his lungs, Santos couldn’t be given traditional treatments.
“I went from asymptomatic to a very aggressive pneumonia that lingered around for a while, then a fever that reached delirium, where I was saying things that were incoherent,” Santos said. “I was calling my mother’s name at one point and my mom’s been deceased for quite some time. That’s how bad it was.”
He says that he made it through while staying in his apartment with his partner, a pharmacist.
“I had to break this on my own in quarantine for two weeks and then deal with a cough that lingered around for 30 days,” Santos said. “Nobody would come near me thinking I was still viral. That said, I survived coronavirus.”
Concerning nationwide handling of the virus and the response of President Donald Trump, Santos said that he “had nothing to compare it to.”
“I think that it was on an unprecedented pandemic that we have not experienced in modern years, so I don’t want to jump too harsh on conclusions,” Santos said. “I don’t think President Trump’s handling was necessarily bad. I think he acted with good instincts as early on as February by initiating the China travel ban.”
He adds that he supports the president “to the extent that his words make sense,” and will be voting for him in November.
“[Concerning the virus response,] the president did the best he could with the tools at hand,” Santos said. “I think there was room for improvement, yes, but I don’t think it was a disaster as bad as everybody’s painting it to be.”
“I do not believe there was any Russian meddling,” Santos said. “I do believe the Muller report was very, very poorly executed. It was a large waste of taxpayer dollars, and I think we’ve had a lot of divisiveness and a lot of polarization in this country because of that hoax, I do call it a hoax.”
Not all of his thoughts align with the president’s, though. Santos says that while he is “looking into” the effects of capping the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction at $10,000 as part of a package Trump signed into law years ago, he was not in favor of it at first.
“I did get some evidence that I might be wrong, and it might have benefited a large portion of the district, but I really need to continue the research that we’re doing,” Santos said.
Also high on Santos’ list of priorities is infrastructure, which he says was brought further into public attention with the chaos of Tropical Storm Isaias in August.
“Tropical Storm Isaias was a great example of how poor our infrastructure, our electrical grid in Long Island is and how much work it needs and Congressman Suozzi refuses to address that, aside from sending a letter requesting an investigation into LIPA to Attorney General Letitia James,” Santos said. “That’s an appropriate start, but for four years and zero infrastructure requests, even though we saw what Sandy, Irene, and every other massive storm that hit the North Shore and South Shore of Long Island has done to our electrical grid, so sure, we can launch investigations all we want. But we need to update the infrastructure, carry it. It’s unacceptable.”
Filings dated June 30 from the Federal Election Commission states that Santos’ campaign has $73,355.64 in cash on hand; a fraction of the Suozzi campaign’s $1,925,072.87. Santos says the difference between them does not worry him.
“Suozzi lost his [Nassau County] executive race with $2 million in the bank, because he was an arrogant individual and we all saw that,” Santos said. “Arrogant in the sense of, he didn’t want to spend the money, he aspired for higher offices.”
The candidate described Suozzi’s two terms in the House as “silent, complacent, and ineffective.”
“He’s accomplished nothing,” Santos said. “There’s just nothing that’s changed or bettered the lives of the people of New York’s third or people in this country as a whole, that came from Congressman Suozzi. He’s very keen on photo ops and co-sponsoring bills that go nowhere because he knows they’re going to go nowhere. He’s trying to put a band-aid on a wound he created when he completely went ludicrous and gave Nassau County a 23% tax hike in order to ‘fix’ the financial issues of the county. And now he’s trying to blame that on the SALT deduction.”
Kim Devlin, a senior advisor for the Suozzi campaign, responded to the comments in a statement to Blank Slate Media.
“Tom is running on his record of getting things done by working across party lines,” Devlin said. “He has fought for and won billions of dollars of COVID aid, increased funding for Long Island Sound by 500 percent and brought additional federal funding to clean up the Navy Grumman Plume. He has worked tirelessly to improve Northport’s VA Center, repeal the SALT tax deduction, and expand affordable health care and lower drug prices. His opponent will keep making silly and false charges while Tom will keep working for his constituents.”
As for the abortion issue, Santos, who says he grew up in a “religious household,” says that should he be in office for an overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court and should legislation toward banning abortion be put before the House, he knows how he would vote and would be in favor of criminal charges for doctors who performed them if outlawed.
“If it is set down for legislation that we’re going to ban abortion in the United States and I’m given an opportunity to vote, in that case, I will vote to support the ban of abortion in the United States,” Santos said.
He adds that as a New York conservative, he tends to be “more fiscally conservative but socially liberal,” and that he opposes the Green New Deal, a universal income, and Medicare for All.
“Now I’m totally in favor of paying for, you know, our own health care expenses, and I don’t expect the federal government nor the local government to pay the cost,” Santos said. “But don’t tell me that you have a health care plan that’s comprehensive for everybody you need when you’re removing the old policy, such as the terminally ill patients who were afforded the human decency of having end of life care without having to worry about money.”
The candidate says that there is an element to his campaign that’s more important than money.
“What’s very important in politics is a message that resonates with the constituents,” Santos said. “And I think we have the right message.”