NEW YORK – Republican Rep.-elect George Santos stands accused of fabricating major portions of his biography, from his Jewish ancestry to what companies he worked for.
But disgust for Democrats is so strong among some voters in the district whose seat he flipped, they’d rather have a fabulist representing them in Congress.
“Of course it bothers me,” Daniel Zimmerman, a 70-year-old registered Democrat, told POLITICO as he left a local pharmacy Thursday in Great Neck, a waterfront enclave in the heart of the district. But, he added, he’d vote for Santos again. “Right now I’m a Republican because Democrats, they’re destroying our country. I don’t like the president,” said the voter who is unrelated to Santos’ Democratic opponent, Robert Zimmerman.
A registered Republican outside a Dollar Tree in Glen Cove, another waterfront community in Nassau County, echoed those sentiments, saying she was more wary of the Democratic Party than Santos, canards and all.
“Truthfully, I don’t trust the Democrats on anything they say. I see it on the TV and I turn it off,” said the woman, who declined to give her name for privacy reasons.
“Look, I met the guy. He’s really nice and we need change in this country. I’d have to look further into it, but it’s all alleged,” she said.
Though he hasn’t stepped foot in Congress, Santos is already testing the limits of scandal coverage that voters may be willing to tolerate. The 34-year-old Republican won his race by a 54-46 percent margin in November. But a week ago, the New York Times reported that significant parts of his “storybook journey” — as a self-described openly gay son of immigrants who worked his way up from a public college to a Goldman Sachs career — were likely too good to be true. Neither Baruch College nor the investment bank had any record of him.
And since then, The Forward revealed he may have lied about his Jewish grandparents escaping the Nazis during World War II and the Daily Beast found that he never mentioned a divorce from a woman just days before launching his 2020 run.
John Catsimatidis, a Republican billionaire and political powerbroker who often hosts fundraisers at his Long Island home, said GOP leaders “should have done a lot more due diligence” on Santos before he was elected. But, Catsimatidis said, Santos “should be held to the same standard as” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), who exaggerated his military service record when he ran for the Senate in 2010. Catsimatidis added that Santos should be seated in Congress, but the U.S. attorney general’s office should investigate if there’s any criminality.
Not everyone in Santos’ soon-to-be district was willing to easily forgive.
Glen Cove resident Deb Fierro, 63, is a registered Democrat who voted for Santos’ opponent.
“It’s disappointing. The everyday Joe, if you went to apply for a job and lied about it, you’d be found out,” Fierro said.
Joanne, a 66-year-old Manhasset resident who wasn’t comfortable sharing her last name, said she wouldn’t cast a ballot for Santos again. But she also said she doesn’t think much of politicians from either party. “All of them, they’re getting away with it. And he’s going to get away like the Democrats are getting away [with it]. Everyone in politics, it’s all lies now,” the registered Republican said.
Judy Vine, a 77-year-old registered Democrat who was walking her dog in Great Neck, agreed. “All those things that he lied about are just egregious,” she said.
On Thursday, Santos promised to address the matter soon. “To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week,” he tweeted. “I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on; Public safety, Inflation, Education & more. Happy Holidays to all!”
Santos did not respond to a request for comment.
Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau County executive and a Republican, said in an interview with POLITICO that he’d withhold judgment until he heard Santos’ remarks.
“I think it’s important that George Santos address the allegations line by line and tell the public exactly what is fact and what is fiction,” Blakeman said.
But Democrats and state law enforcement aren’t content to wait and see what Santos has to say. Incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has called out Santos for hiding from questions. And New York Attorney General Tish James’s office said Thursday that it “was looking into some of the things that were raised” by the Times’ report.