GOP picks Mazi Melesa Pilip, Ethiopian-born Israeli-American, to run to replace George Santos


(JTA) — Long Island Republicans selected Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian Jewish Nassau County legislator, to run in the special election to replace George Santos, who was expelled after he was exposed for alleged fraud and lies, including that he was Jewish.

Pilip emerged as a likely contender to replace Santos when his lies were exposed soon after his election last year, and she was officially named Thursday as the candidate, nearly two weeks after Santos’ expulsion. She will face Democrat Tom Suozzi, who is hoping to get his old job back after quitting the seat in an unsuccessful bid for governor. The special election is Feb. 13.

Pilip, 44, is an Orthodox Jewish mother of seven who served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army and campaigned in Israel for better representation of Ethiopian Jews. She has also taken a prominent role in campaigning against the spike in antisemitism in New York since Hamas terrorists massacred 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7, launching Israel’s current war in Gaza.

Pilip was 12 during Operation Solomon, the 1991 airlift that brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel. After a stint in the paratroop division of the army, she studied occupational therapy and diplomacy at Israeli universities, where she met her Ukrainian-American husband who was then a medical student.

In Israel, she led the Ethiopian Student Union 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 told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in January.

Pilip ran for her seat on the Nassau County legislature in 2021 in part because of the antisemitism she said her son faced in middle school. She ousted a Democrat to win her spot in 2021 after asking Jewish supporters to put her up over Shabbat so she could visit synagogues. She was handily reelected last month.

Pilip was among a broad swath of Long Island Republicans who denounced Santos and called on him to resign as soon as his deceptions were revealed.

“I trusted him and I told people to vote for him. I campaigned with him. And so when you do something like this, and then keep every day there’s something new coming about him,” she told JTA. “It’s making you feel uncomfortable because people asking, you know, ‘What’s going on, Mazi? What happened with this guy?””

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