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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.
Alex Brandon
/
AP
Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

Another chapter in the scandal-plagued career of New York Republican George Santos sputtered to an end this week as he abandoned his independent bid for a U.S. House seat on Long Island.

"I don't want to split the ticket and be responsible for handing the house to Dems," Santos wrote in a social media post. "Staying in this race all but guarantees a victory for the Dems."

Santos won his election in New York's 3rd Congressional District in the 2022 midterms. He was part of a red wave in New York that helped give Republicans a razor-thin majority.

But his personal and professional narratives quickly unraveled.

It turned out Santos, who was initially supported by many of New York's most prominent GOP leaders, lied about his family's religion, his education and his business experience.

Santos even claimed falsely to have been a competitive college volleyball player.

In May 2023, while facing a House ethics probe, Santos was arrested on federal fraud charges that accuse him of bilking political donors. Santos has pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department eventually expanded the criminal counts against Santos to 23 charges.

"Santos is charged with stealing people's identities and making charges on his own donors' credit cards without their authorization," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in an October 2023 statement.

Santos's trial on Long Island is expected to get underway in September. His former campaign treasurer has already pleaded guilty in the case.

Ousted from Congress, Santos tried for a comeback

In December 2023, with his scandals and legal troubles deepening and political allies abandoning him, Santos was expelled from Congress in a 311-114 vote. Many Republicans joined the effort to purge him from office.

In the months since, Santos has emerged as a far-right gadfly and influencer, firing political salvos at Democrats and at moderate Republicans.

Santos initially said he would run in the Republican primary in New York's 1st Congressional District but later shifted to run as an independent.

In his social media post announcing that he's abandoned his campaign, Santos again blasted the "abysmal" voting record of Rep. Nick LaLota, the Republican who currently holds the seat.

LaLota played a key role in the bipartisan effort to force Santos from office.

John Avlon, who is running in the 1st Congressional District's Democratic primary, expressed his disappointment at the end of the three-way race: "Gotta say: I was really looking forward to the debates."

Since Santos's numerous lies were revealed, he has become a political pariah in New York City. But Santos' post suggested that even now his political career may not yet be over:

"It's only goodbye for now, I'll be back."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.