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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Martin Pengelly in Washington

George Santos, indicted fabulist expelled from Congress, drops bid for New York seat

Santos, with smirk and sunglasses, waves.
George Santos has dropped out despite the ‘abysmal record’ of his Republican opponent. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA

The expelled US congressman, fabulist and multiply indicted criminal defendant George Santos said he would not run for re-election in New York after all, because to do so would risk splitting the Republican vote and handing Democrats a prized Long Island seat.

“Although Nick and I don’t have the same voting record and I remain critical of his abysmal record, I don’t want to split the ticket and be responsible for handing the house to Democrats,” Santos said on social media, referring to Nick LaLota, the sitting Republican congressman in New York’s first district.

“Staying in this race all but guarantees a victory for the Democrats.”

LaLota responded: “Chat GPT translation: he’s taking a plea deal.”

Santos said: “You wish, you useless, feckless Rino.”

Santos was using the acronym for “Republican in name only”, a common insult on the pro-Trump right. He, however, had been attempting to challenge LaLota as an independent.

Santos was a Republican when he won a different New York seat last year, only for his résumé to unravel amid a series of bizarre and increasingly picaresque revelations, including a false claim about being a college volleyball star; a past as a drag performer in Brazil; alleged dog crime (which may have informed Senator Mitt Romney’s decision to call Santos a “sick puppy”); and attempts to use historical horrors – the Holocaust, 9/11, the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre – to burnish his personal story.

After a controversial few months on Capitol Hill, in which Republican leaders beholden to a narrow House majority and a restive far right declined to take action, Santos pleaded not guilty last May to charges of defrauding supporters, illegally receiving benefits and lying to Congress.

More fraud charges were added before Santos was expelled from the House – only the sixth member ever so treated – last December. In the same month, he was reported to be in talks over a plea deal. Since leaving Congress, he has maintained a social media profile, selling Cameo videos and attending the State of the Union address last month.

In his message on social media on Tuesday, Santos mixed sporting and military metaphors, saying: “I am ready willing and able to step up to the plate and go fight for my country at anytime [sic].

“I will continue to participate in the public policy discussion and will do my part … I will always strive to stand on the right side of history. It’s only goodbye for now, I’ll be back.”

Santos also said he was glad to be back in New York after a trip to Texas, adding a remark perhaps not likely to please many followers: “NY may be a shit hole but it’s my shit hole! Hahaha.”

John Avlon, the former CNN anchor and Daily Beast editor running for the Democratic nomination to face LaLota, lamented Santos’s withdrawal.

“Gotta say,” Avlon said, “I was really looking forward to the debates.”

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