George Santos has been expelled from Congress. Here's how his replacement will be chosen

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has scheduled the special election for Feb. 13.

December 5, 2023, 5:41 PM

Rep. George Santos, the beleaguered Republican who represented New York's 3rd Congressional District, has officially been expelled from Congress over alleged ethics violations and other accusations of wrongdoing.

Santos has steadfastly defended himself, including by labeling a scathing report from congressional investigators as a "smear."

But the vote to remove him passed with bipartisan support, and there are now 434 members of the House.

PHOTO: Rep. George Santos is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on Dec. 1, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Rep. George Santos is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on Dec. 1, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Questions are already swirling about who will replace him. The answer depends on who wins a special election for his swing seat.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has scheduled the special election for Feb. 13.

"I am prepared to undertake the solemn responsibility of filling the vacancy in New York's 3rd District," Hochul said just after Santos was removed. "The people of Long Island deserve nothing less."

PHOTO: Rep. George Santos walks into the House Republican cloakroom at the Capitol, Nov.  28, 2023.
Rep. George Santos walks into the House Republican cloakroom at the Capitol, Nov. 28, 2023.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Hochul is not able to appoint someone to Santos' old seat before then. The vacancy weakens Republicans' already narrow majority in the House.

There will be no traditional party primary where Democratic and Republican voters will choose from a list of candidates seeking to succeed Santos.

Instead, county leaders from each party will internally vote for and nominate candidates for the special election, according to New York election law. That will likely kick off a competitive courtship of local Republicans by many within Santos' own party.

Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs previously told ABC News that a handful of candidates were being considered for their pick -- including former Rep. Tom Suozzi, 2022 Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman and former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, among some others.

Suozzi and Kaplan have already launched 2024 primary election challenges for Santos's seat.

PHOTO: New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to press after an incident at the Rainbow Bridge U.S. border crossing with Canada, in Niagara Falls, New York, November 22, 2023.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to press after an incident at the Rainbow Bridge U.S. border crossing with Canada, in Niagara Falls, New York, November 22, 2023.
Lindsay Dedario/Reuters

Since the district is mostly in New York's Nassau County but also includes parts of Queens, the consideration of nominees will be jointly made by Nassau and Queens Democrats, with Rep. Gregory Meeks leading the Queens cohort, in consultation with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Hochul herself, per Jacobs.

Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo told Politico in late October that the county party will "select the best candidate, and we will give 110% effort as we do in every race." He said that the party had already heard from around 20 candidates.

PHOTO: Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., is seen before the House voted to pass the Right To Contraception Act in the U.S. Capitol, July 21, 2021.
Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., is seen before the House voted to pass the Right To Contraception Act in the U.S. Capitol, July 21, 2021.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A source familiar with the Nassau County Republicans confirms to ABC News that they consider around 15 candidates potentially strong contenders for a special election and have been in touch with party leaders in Washington and hope to be able to produce a nominee within several days of the expulsion.

Given the geographic makeup of the district, the Nassau County chapters of both parties will have the better part of the influence in who the nominee for their respective parties will be.

ABC News' Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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