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February 11, 2024
What A Day
Replacing The Con In Congress

In This Episode

  • Tuesday is Election Day for the race to replace George Santos in New York’s third congressional district. The candidates running for the seat include former Democratic congressman Tom Suozzi and Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip who’s been selected as the nominee for Republican and conservative parties. With Republicans holding a narrow 219-212 majority in the House, the stakes are high. We’re joined by Gabby Seay, the campaign director of Battleground New York, to learn more about what it would take to flip this seat and others in the state blue.
  • And in headlines: the Senate advanced a bill that would provide $95 billion in aid for Ukraine and Israel, a series of Israeli strikes hit Rafah, and Vox’s Ellen Ioanes tells us about the significance of last week’s parliamentary election in Pakistan.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, February 12th, I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What a Day, the podcast that is not afraid to confess that Usher’s halftime performance last night was incredible. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, we will walk you through that amazing performance later in the show, but let’s just say there was definitely some love up in this club, Josie.


Josie Duffy Rice: I felt like Atlanta was in the Super Bowl. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. It was giving that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was giving that. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, the Senate advanced a bill that would provide $95 billion dollars in aid for Ukraine and Israel. Plus, we discuss the significance of Pakistan’s parliamentary election. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, tomorrow is election day for the race to replace Joanne the scammer. I mean, George Santos in New York’s third congressional district. Early voting for the special election started earlier this month on February 3rd, and polls are set to close at 9 p.m. eastern tomorrow night. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, and we will be watching that very closely. But remind the peoples, Josie, how exactly did we get here? 


Josie Duffy Rice: So, as I’m sure you remember, last December, George Santos was expelled from the House by his colleagues after a scathing House ethics report found, quote, “substantial evidence” of lawbreaking by Santos and concluded that he plain and simple quote, “cannot be trusted.” That’s putting it lightly. The vote to kick him out of Congress made him the sixth House member to ever be expelled by colleagues in the chamber’s history, so it was a pretty big deal. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. How can we forget? That’s also the report that details Santos’s use of campaign funds on things like Botox, some hotel nights, a little OnlyFans action was in the mix. 


Josie Duffy Rice: He was spending money at Sephora. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And you know Sephora ain’t cheap.Okay.


Josie Duffy Rice: It is not cheap. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, he is out of office now and the special election to fill his vacated seat is happening tomorrow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, and it’s a pretty important election given that right now Republicans hold a narrow 219 to 212 majority in the House. So the stakes are pretty high here. You know, one vote means a lot. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And so to learn more about the candidates running to fill Santos’s seat, as well as what it would take to flip this seat and others in the state, I called up Gabby Seay. She’s the campaign director of Battleground New York. They are a coalition of organizations and unions working to flip New York’s five Republican held House seats and take back the House. Welcome to What a Day, Gabby. 


Gabby Seay: Thank you for having me. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Thank you for being here. Okay, so tomorrow is the special House election to fill George Santos’s seat. Let’s set the stage for those who aren’t there right on the ground. Tell us about the candidates running to fill his seat. 


Gabby Seay: So there are two candidates running. There’s former Congressman Tom Suozzi, who is the former county executive for Nassau County on Long Island, has been a local mayor, has been delivering for the district for a couple of decades now, he is running as a Democrat. And then there is a Republican running, Mazi Pilip who is currently a county legislator. I believe she’s in her second term, so fairly new to politics and public service. And you can tell. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I know that’s right. 


Gabby Seay: On the campaign trail. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I know that’s right. And speaking of the campaign trail, this is New York’s third Congressional district. 


Gabby Seay: Mm hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Talk to us a little bit about who makes up the district, who makes up the voter base there, how have they voted in the past? 


Gabby Seay: The third Congressional District is a true battleground district, and it’s not a battleground district in the way that we think about, a lot of times we think about battleground districts being places where you win on the margins. No, this is a battleground district that makes big swings. Joe Biden won this district in 2020 by about eight points. Two years later, Lee Zeldin running for governor won it by 12. And so this is a place where voters make their gripes, their make their ambitions, they make their hopes and dreams really, really clear in the way that they vote. And so we expect this to be a pretty close election, closer than we typically see in a district like this. This is a pretty diverse district. You know, about 18% of the district are API voters. It is made up of both Queens and New York City and Nassau County on Long Island. Lots of people of color, right now we are doing program in English and Spanish and Hindi and in Chinese and Cantonese. And so like, that’s the kind of campaigns that you have to run. You have to be able to speak to people where they are on their doorsteps, in their language. And the candidate we’re supporting, Tom Suozzi has been doing that his entire career. So it’s a super diverse district. Democrats have the voter registration advantage. But this is a special election in the winter, when people aren’t used to voting. So turnout is going to be the name of the game. And already we have seen we think this is going to be a record turnout election for a special election. Two days into early voting, 21,000 people have already voted, which it’s pretty unheard of for a off cycle special election like this.


Tre’vell Anderson: I would like to ask you specifically about you all’s work and efforts with Battleground New York to flip this seat and win back the house. What does that look like? 


Gabby Seay: So if we flip these five seats in New York, that’s the whole ballgame of Battleground New York. There are two seats on Long Island that we’re going to be working with, three seats in the Hudson Valley. One of those is a protect Congressman Ryan. And then there is a seat, 22nd Congressional District in Syracuse. You know, when people think about New York, they usually think about New York City and they think about it being a super Democratic although we can have a conversation about our Democratic mayor right now, another time. Come back another time for that. But what we know for folks that do work in New York and have for many years, is that these districts have always been battleground districts. We’ve just never had this margin of victory come through New York. And so part of what we’re trying to do is make sure people understand that this indeed is a battleground state right now. It may not be a battleground state for a presidential election, but it is certainly a battleground state when it comes to Congress. If we win here, we flip Congress and we make my congressman, Hakeem Jeffries, speaker of the House. Which I would love to have a speaker named Hakeem who goes around courting for me. [laughter] And so we believe that we are going to flip Congress by doing two things. One, holding these elected officials accountable because whether your name is D’Esposito or Mike Lawler or any of these Republican Congressman. Marc Molinaro, these are all people who are one way when they’re in New York talking to their constituents or sometimes not talking to their constituents. And then when they go to Washington, D.C., they vote with MAGA Mike Johnson and Marjorie Taylor Greene. And so we want to make sure that voters understand and that we deeply invest in these districts that will be battleground seats no matter what. And then the other thing is that we got to build a super robust turnout operation across the state. We understand that turning out voters is not just about registering them once and then talking to them during the get out the vote time. It is about registering to vote, building a relationship with them, giving them tools to hold their elected officials accountable and turning them out. We’re building the largest field campaign we believe that the state has ever seen, and investing $11 million dollars and turning out voters of color, young people, new registrants and folks that are typically left out of big campaigns. So we think about, you know, going to the people who vote every single cycle, know our work is to engage folks that are often forgotten and left out of political process. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And so what would you say is your message to voters who are heading to the polls before they close tomorrow night? What do you want them to know? 


Gabby Seay: I want them to know that we all deserve a functioning Congress. We deserve elected officials that fight for lower prescription drug prices for us, that will protect the border, that will invest in communities, that will invest in people that have a track record of producing results and not of chaos. And there’s only one person in this race who has a record of delivering for people of color, for working class voters, for his entire career. And that is Tom Suozzi. Um. And so I want voters to understand what is at stake here. And honestly, you don’t have to tell people of color and working class people what’s at stake. We know what’s at stake every single day when we walk out the doors, when our children go to school, when we’re putting gas in our cars, we don’t need to tell people what’s at stake. What we need to tell people is who to blame. And right now they got to blame Republicans, the party of chaos, the party of MAGA extremists. Um. And we need to bring some order and some real work back to Washington, D.C.. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Gabby Seay of Battleground New York. You can learn more about how you can help win back the House at And that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The Senate advanced a bill on Sunday that would provide $95 billion dollars in aid for Ukraine and Israel. That’s about 60 billion for Ukraine and 14 billion for Israel. The deal also includes $10 billion dollars toward humanitarian assistance for civilians caught in war zones. The vote was bipartisan, with 18 Republicans joining Democrats during a rare Sunday session. Senate leaders are hoping to get a floor vote on the bill as soon as tomorrow. But the bill continues to face opposition from Trump’s allies in the chamber who believe that, quote unquote, “protecting the southern border” is more important than supporting Ukraine or aiding vulnerable civilians. These are the same Republicans that killed an earlier version of the same bill last week. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And for the latest on the war in Gaza, US President Joe Biden has warned Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch a military operation on the border town of Rafah in Gaza quote, “without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there. It’s one of the stronger stances that Biden has taken in recent days. Rafah, which sits on the border with Egypt, has become one of the last refuges for people displaced in Gaza. But despite all of this, a series of Israeli strikes hit Rafah Monday morning local time, according to reporting from the Associated Press. And the human impacts are beyond dire. A six year old Palestinian girl named Hind Rajab, along with the two rescuers who went looking for her after she went missing, were found dead on Saturday. That’s according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society or PRCS. The rescuers were sent out almost two weeks ago to find Hind, who was believed to be trapped in a car with dead family members. She’d been fleeing the war in northern Gaza with her uncle, his wife and four children when they came under Israeli fire, the PRCS said. According to The Washington Post, which interviewed family members and members of PRCS and also reviewed audio of phone conversations. Hind’s 15 year old cousin first spoke with a dispatcher and warned that a tank was nearby. Then came a burst of fire and then the line went dead. Dispatchers called back and Hind answered. In a recording released by the PRCS, her voice could be heard saying, come take me, will you come and take me? I’m so scared. Please come. One of the most haunting stories in a sea of haunting stories from the past few months. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And speaking of foreign aid, we all know that former President Trump says a lot of foolish things. But he definitely outdid himself a bit on Saturday when he said that he’d encourage Russia to do, quote, “whatever the hell they want” and attack NATO countries if he wins the White House in November. Take a listen to his remarks during a rally at Coastal Carolina University. In this clip, he’s recalling a conversation he had with a world leader who asked him what he’d do as president if another NATO country was attacked but failed to meet the alliance’s requirements for defense spending. 


[clip of Donald Trump] One of the presidents of a big country, he stood up, said, well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn’t pay, you’re delinquent. He said, yes. Let’s say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You got to pay your bills. That’s a really rich statement. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s tough to believe on all levels, including coming from this person. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This is obviously against NATO rules right. Which require member countries to aid one another if they’re ever attacked. Since, you know, that’s the whole point of being in an alliance. But we can’t be too surprised since Trump has made similar remarks in the past. In 2022, he claimed to have told world leaders the same thing during the 2018 NATO summit. He’s also long said that he doesn’t think the U.S. should even be in NATO to begin with. So just another preview of what this Florida man would do to our foreign policy if he wins another term in office. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And finally, yesterday was the 58th Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers went head to head with the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas on Sunday. Things kicked off when players and coaches from the Lahainaluna High School football team hit the field to serve as honorary captains for the coin toss. We told you last week that the NFL flew the Lunas out as special guests to honor their team’s resilience ever since the Lahaina wildfires ravaged their hometown six months ago. The league is also helping replace all of the team’s gear and equipment. Honestly, if you watch one thing from the Super Bowl, it shouldn’t be the game. It should be this moment at the very beginning. The bit that they did on what happened in Lahaina I thought it was very moving, I cried. Reba McEntire sang the national anthem. Taylor Swift was in attendance to support her man,  Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, as expected. But in unexpected news, Beyoncé seemingly hinted at a new album in a Verizon commercial that aired during the game. She later followed up on Instagram with some visuals that suggest the queen may be coming out with like a country vibes record very soon? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Josie, I actually have some breaking news for you. 


Josie Duffy Rice: [gasp] Stop it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: There’s a new single out right now. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s called Texas hold ’em. Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Stop it! [tapping on something] [laughter] Stop. I’m gonna cry. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m getting the text messages as we literally record– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my God. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right now Josie.


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Okay, sorry. We have to go. That’s all the news. Talk to you guys at some point. [laughter] Okay.


Tre’vell Anderson: Compose ourselves. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. We got to compose ourselves because other things happened. Let’s talk briefly about the halftime show. Usher wowed audiences when he took the stage for his highly anticipated performance. He did several of his greatest hits, including Confessions and Love in This Club and he brought some iconic guests, Alicia Keys made a surprise appearance to duet their hit song My Boo. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: H.E.R. came out to do a guitar solo. Lil Jon and Ludacris got the crowd going with Yeah! For those of us who may have been in high school in our 2000s, it was incredible. It was amazing. The skates, like, don’t even get me started. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It was so good. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was so good. And I hear there was also a football game. And to top it all off, the Chiefs declared victory over the 49ers. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, this was a very eventful Super Bowl. Not just because of the amazingness that is Usher. I was very entertained, let’s put it like that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Watching him do what he does, but now we have new Beyonce as well? I mean come now. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I mean stop, [laughter] it’s crazy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Happy Black History Month to us. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This one has 29 days and we’re gonna make every single one of them count. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Tre’vell Anderson: And now it’s time for a democracy temp check. 2024 is a huge year for elections, not just for the US, but around the globe as well. And one of the big ones is the parliamentary election in Pakistan that took place on Thursday last week. And the results are actually pretty surprising. Isn’t that right, Josie? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, to say the least, it’s a big deal because there’s something interesting about Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, whose party won the most seats in the parliamentary elections. His party beat out the Pakistan Muslim League party led by military backed long time politician Nawaz Sharif. For more on the election results, our producer Natalie Bettendorf called up Ellen Ioanes to break all of this down. She’s a world and general assignment reporter for Vox. Here’s Ellen.


[clip of Ellen Ionaes] Imran Khan is in jail, and his party pulled out a victory in these elections. They did really well. That’s pretty shocking, given how hard the government worked to prevent that from happening. I think we can’t discount the power of social media. He was still campaigning for his party powerfully from jail. And he’s also this very, very charismatic person. He’s a cricket star, which is, of course, really important in South Asia. Really good looking still, even in his 70s. He’s a populist, so he’s got this strong base. He appealed a lot to young people, which were, you know a huge part of the electorate and also had a broad base of support among women. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And what’s important to understand here is how integral the military is to Pakistan’s government. So they were backing Sharif and working really, really hard to make sure that Khan did not win. And they cracked down on protests. They put members of Khan’s party in jail. They scrubbed his name from mainstream media. I mean, they did basically everything they could. They even suspended mobile phone services nationwide on Election Day. There was generally a lot of political violence surrounding this election, and dozens of people were killed. 


Tre’vell Anderson: In terms of the role of the U.S. in all of this, how would we describe that? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s a good question, especially because promoting democracy around the world has been a self-proclaimed big goal of the Biden administration. So here’s how Ellen explained it. 


[clip of Ellen Ionaes] The US hasn’t really come out very strongly against the charges against Khan, against his imprisonment. We haven’t been very forceful in saying like, listen, this is really interrupting democracy, and you have to prove that these charges are legitimate. It sort of exposes the hollowness of US foreign policy if we’re not really willing to be critical of these sort of liminal states of democracy, if we’re not really willing to say, like, listen, Imran Khan maybe is not perfect, but having the military really run Pakistani politics is not a solution. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And the thing is, as we’re talking about the state of democracy here in the US, it’s important to look outside of the US as well. 


[clip of Ellen Ionaes] That’s what Trumpism represents to me, is this sort of mocking of democracy, essentially, and this sort of twisting of it. And I think if we allow that to occur uncritically in other places, because we think the United States is different, that somehow our institutions are stronger, we’re lying to ourselves. We are seeing one candidate, Donald Trump, face a lot of legal troubles, and he sort of makes himself a martyr with his base. And if you look at how successful Imran Khan was from prison, there’s no real reason to imagine that Donald Trump couldn’t pull off something similar. This is a person who also uses the tools of democracy, whether it’s the courts or the electoral system, or tries to use the tools of democracy to entrench an undemocratic power. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thanks so much to Ellen Ioanes, we’ll link her coverage of the Pakistani election below in the show notes. [music break]




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, go out and vote and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just about Beyonce’s new single like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. So check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


[spoken together] And Beyoncé for president. 


Josie Duffy Rice: President of my heart. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] That’s all that matters Josie.


Josie Duffy Rice: I guess I don’t want to, like, sully her by forcing her to– 


Tre’vell Anderson: You said, actually stay out of politics, please and thank you. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Actually stay out of politics, my love. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]