Abortion, immigration and Trump in focus at forum on race to replace George Santos

NEW YORK — Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip has praised former President Trump as a “great president” but said she wouldn’t support him if he is convicted of a crime as the battle for disgraced ex-Rep. George Santos’ Long Island congressional seat heats up.

After weeks of dodging questions about Trump and other hot-button issues, Pilip told a televised forum that the former president did “great things for America.”

“If he is the candidate, I will support him. He was a great candidate, a great president,” Pilip said. “He improved our economy. He brought a lot of peace process in the Middle East. He was very strong on the international level.”

But Pilip avoided taking sides in the GOP primary fight between Trump and Haley, saying “they’re both great,” and vowed to dump Trump if he is convicted of a crime in one of his four trials on 91 separate felony counts.

“Nobody is above the law,” Pilip said. “If he is convicted of a crime, he cannot represent us.”

The political newcomer, who is a registered Democrat, is vying with Democrat Tom Suozzi in a Feb. 13 special election for the Long Island swing seat held by Santos until he was expelled in a historic vote last year.

Pilip and Suozzi, who held the seat for three terms before leaving to mount a failed bid for governor, made separate taped appearances late Tuesday on WPIX Channel 11 to push their candidacies.

The only debate between the rivals is set for next week. Early voting kicks off Saturday.

Suozzi narrowly leads in the only poll of the race and Democrats are dramatically outspending Republicans on ads, leading some pundits to question if the GOP is taking the race seriously.

Along with her stance on Trump, Pilip elaborated on her position on abortion. The mother of seven says she is pro-life but would not join fellow Republicans in enacting a national ban on abortion.

“I’m not going to force my own beliefs, my own faith on any woman,” said Pilip, an Israeli immigrant with roots in Ethiopia. “Therefore, I’m not going to support a national abortion ban and I’m not going to risk women’s health care.”

Suozzi has accused Pilip of ducking debates with him and avoiding public events. Pilip has not responded to Daily News requests for an interview.

The veteran moderate Democratic pol told the WPIX forum that he supports bipartisan efforts to crack down on illegal immigration across the southern border.

House Republicans say they won’t even hold a vote on such a compromise after Trump denounced the push as a backdoor effort to boost President Biden’s reelection.

“People have got to work together to solve these problems,” Suozzi said. “A bipartisan compromise is the only way to move forward.”