As we look forward to 2023, QNS is looking back at our top stories in the world of politics throughout 2022.
The political waters were roiled across the borough as a phantom emerged with questionable credentials, an Assembly race remained too close to call, redistricting created uncertainty across the board and two trailblazing women headed for the exit after decades in government.
Controversy surrounds Queens Congressman-elect George Santos following bombshell investigative report
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office says it is “looking into a number of issues” raised about Congressman-elect George Santos after questions arose in a New York Times expose into large parts of his background, including his education, past employment, nonprofit work, and financial dealings. Santos, a Republican, won in the November election against Democrat Robert Zimmerman for a seat in New York’s 3rd congressional district, which includes northeast Queens.
Congressman Tom Suozzi represented the district since 2017 until he stepped down to launch an unsuccessful bid for governor and he told MSNBC that he knew Santos was a phony all along.
“I ran against Santos back in 2020. He had $40,000 in the bank,” Suozzi said. “He’s an odd, unusual person. And, you know, we didn’t take him that seriously.”
A growing number of politicians have called for Santos to resign and/or be investigated regarding his finances and campaign activity amid the accusations. Republican Queens Councilwoman Vickie Paladino told QNS she’s waiting to hear from Santos.
“We look forward to additional statements from the Congressman-elect himself and any investigations that may follow.”
Santos on Dec. 26 admitted that he fabricated his resume, but rebuffed calls to resign.
After the story broke, he initially issued a vague nondenial through his attorney, but later posted on Twitter: “I will address your questions.” Yet after his first round of interviews, questions remain unanswered.
“I am not a criminal,” Santos told the New York Post. “My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry.”
Pheffer Amato takes lead in Assembly District 23 race
Voters in south Queens are still waiting to know who will represent them in Albany nearly two months after they went to the polls but the race between incumbent Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and her Republican challenger Thomas Sullivan will likely be determined on Jan. 4.
Pheffer Amato leads Sullivan by the slimmest of margins after an Appellate court ruled that 94 invalidated ballot should be fixed and counted.
“Our democracy works when every voter has the opportunity to be heard.,” Pheffer Amato said. “I’m grateful that the court recognizes that voters were disenfranchised. As I’ve said before, we look forward to every vote being counted.”
Redistricting brings uncertainty at all levels of government across Queens
Federal, state, and local districts were redrawn following a chaotic redistricting process, which takes place every decade following the decennial U.S. Census.
The messy process saw the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission – made up of an even number of Democrats and Republicans – twice fail to agree on one set of maps to send to the state Legislature, which then allowed Albany Democrats to redraw heavily gerrymandered Congressional and state Senate maps that were quickly challenged by Republican activists and ultimately thrown out by the state’s Court of Appeals which handed the process to a special master.
The new maps also resulted in a split primary, with statewide and Assembly races in June and Congressional and state Senate contests in August.
One result meant the end of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s three decades representing Queens when her 12th District was redrawn and forced her into a primary against longtime colleague Jerry Nadler, which she lost. In one of her final acts in Congress, Maloney celebrated the inclusion of $1 billion in funding for 9/11 first responders and survivors in the government spending bill that passed on Dec. 23.
“Our country made a promise after 9/11 to always be there for the firefighters, the police, the EMTs, the workers clearing the pile, and survivors, residents, area workers, and students who got sick or injured from the toxins at ground zero,” Maloney said. “Our 9/11 heroes were there for us, and we must be there for them and ensure that everyone impacted by this tragic event gets the care they rightfully need and deserve.”
After nearly four decades in office, Assemblywoman Nolan decides to retire
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan decided against seeking re-election after she was diagnosed with cancer last February. She was one of the youngest women ever elected in New York when she was first sent to Albany in 1984 at age 26. Now, 38 years later, Nolan bid farewell to her constituents.
“After many years of hearings, meetings, and rallies, working with six governors, from both parties, New York State passed, implemented, and continues to improve, my Paid Family Leave bills, helping all in our community cope with family emergencies and strengthen family life. Respect for our neighborhoods taught me what I needed to know to achieve these laws,” Nolan wrote. “These successes would not have happened without you. I am retiring with the greatest feeling of accomplishment because of you and your support.”
Nolan closed her farewell message by thanking her husband Gerard Marsicano and son Nicholas.
“They made many sacrifices that enabled me to be in government and political life,” she wrote. “I never could have achieved what I did, or served as your Assemblywoman, without their constant love and support.”