CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. George Santos says he doesn’t plan to vote in next month’s special election to fill his now vacant seat in Congress.
The disgraced New York Republican, who became only the sixth lawmaker in history to be expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives last year, made the comments Tuesday following a brief hearing in federal court on Long Island ahead of his criminal fraud trial, which is slated for later this year.
Santos told reporters that he isn’t likely to cast a ballot at all in the Feb. 13 election for the seat representing the northern parts of Queens and Long Island.
The race pits Mazi Pilip, a relatively unknown Republican county lawmaker, against Democratic former congressman Thomas Suozzi, who previously represented the district for six years during a lengthy career in Long Island politics.
Santos faces a slew of criminal charges in the federal case, including allegations that he defrauded campaign donors, lied to Congress about his wealth, received unemployment benefits while employed, and used campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses like designer clothing. He pleaded not guilty to a revised indictment in October.
In his court hearing Tuesday, there was little talk of a potential plea deal, unlike his previous court appearance in December.
Santos’ lawyer Joseph Murray said only that negotiations remain “productive” and that both sides would report back to the judge if there were any notable developments.
Judge Joanna Seybert also approved a timeline for motions, briefs and other legal filings in preparation for the September trial. Santos now isn’t due back in court until Aug. 13.
Santos was elected in 2022 after campaigning as a self-made Wall Street whiz, but his life story unraveled soon after his election win, when it was revealed that he had lied about where he worked and went to college as well as big chunks of his personal background. He was ousted from his seat following a scathing House Ethics Committee report that said it found “overwhelming evidence” that he had broken the law and exploited his public position for his own profit.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Santos declined to say what else he’s been up to since his ignominious exit from national politics.
In recent months, he’s granted a handful of interviews and launched an account on the website Cameo, where the public can pay him for a personalized video message.
Santos was asked Tuesday if he missed being in Congress.
“Sure,” he responded. “I worked hard to get there.”
Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo.