Robert Zimmerman says he doesn’t want Democrats to think they have already won the 3rd Congressional District

Robert Zimmerman says he doesn’t want Democrats to think they have already won the 3rd Congressional District
Great Neck's Robert Zimmerman is running for New York's 3rd Congressional District. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

Great Neck’s Robert Zimmerman said he believes Democrats can win the 3rd Congressional District, but is wary that too many of them think it has already been won. 

In a virtual town hall with Blank Slate Media last week, the longtime Democratic National  Committee member spoke about a number of issues, both nationally and locally, as he seeks the Democratic nomination in the district, a seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

“The good news is we can win this Democratic seat,” Zimmerman said. “The bad news is too many Democrats think we’ve already won it.”

Zimmerman took note of the red wave that swept through the district and parts of Long Island last November where Republicans won all countywide posts. He reiterated that the district is still winnable but messaging has played a major role in voters’ minds. 

“It had to do with the fact that I think people were frustrated with Washington, not seeing fast enough action,” Zimmerman said. “They were dealing with the trauma of COVID-19, job security and keeping their children safe.” 

Since his campaign announcement this year, Zimmerman has raised $916,913.88 and disbursed $165,969.55, leaving him with $750,944.33 cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission’s most recent filings. The fundraising numbers in the first quarter put him at the top of qualified candidates vying for the Democratic primary. He attributes that to his campaign’s ability to build a consensus off grassroots energy and activism across the district’s five counties. 

If elected, Zimmerman said it will be his job to find issues where common ground can be shared and bipartisanship can thrive, despite what he calls dangerous rhetoric from the other side. The businessman referred to numerous pieces of legislation in state governments aimed at compromising voting, abortion and the LGBTQ+ community’s rights, among other things, as threats to the country’s fabric. 

“I think our democracy is facing its greatest threat since the Civil War,” Zimmerman said. “Even those types of severe extreme situations, we have to look for ways to find common ground on important issues.”

Zimmerman, 67, is co-president of ZE Creative Communications on Bond Street in Great Neck, a public relations firm he began 33 years ago with Ron Edelson. He said a major reason for running was the political activism he experienced when he was younger and how isolated he felt growing up “as a gay kid in suburbia.” 

If elected, Zimmerman would become the first gay member of Congress from Long Island and Queens.

Zimmerman previously worked as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill for Congressmen Lester Wolff, James Scheuer and Gary Ackerman. His advocacy has also led to his being nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Presidential Commission on the Arts and by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on the Humanities. 

Regarding bail reform, Zimmerman said he supports it while acknowledging the need for change. He called the law passed by the state Legislature “counterproductive” and “ultimately ineffective,” calling for judges to be given more discretion in determining who is a danger to society. 

In 2019, the state Legislature enacted a law that eliminated cash bail for many nonviolent crimes. Pretrial detention and optional cash bail were eliminated in an estimated 90 percent of cases.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman in January signed an executive order that cites a need to “increase transparency by disclosing in daily reports the pending criminal data case and bail stats of those rearrested” by the Police Department. 

Zimmerman said there are many reasons for the increase in crime, adding, “Democrats spend too much time focusing on the root causes of crime and not understanding the reality of crime today.”

Zimmerman believes that both can be done at the same time in order to create a better system that protects communities and doesn’t keep people in jail because “they committed the crime of being poor.”

“Obviously in a climate where millions of people lost their jobs nationwide and their health care, there’s going to be serious issues of mental health untended,” Zimmerman said. “When you have a depressed economy, illegal guns flooding our streets, you’re going to have more crime.”

On more national issues, Zimmerman said he believes in a minimum tax for corporations, raising the corporate tax rate and raising taxes on “top tier earners in our country,” albeit modestly. 

“We have to protect the middle class and focus on targeting corporations that are just basically using loopholes to avoid paying their taxes and go after corporate taxes or raise them,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman called the Russian invasion of Ukraine “genocide” and commended the Biden administration for the work done so far. He also separated himself from national tropes used against Democrats and said if elected, Republicans won’t be putting him on the defensive. 

“No one’s going to call me a socialist. I’ve built, owned and run a business with two great business partners for 33 years,” Zimmerman said. “No one’s ever going to attack me as being part of the ‘defund the police’ movement. I proudly stand up for our police and believe it’s perfectly consistent talking about ways to improve police training, community policing, race relations with police and still be for your police.”

Zimmerman’s rivals for the Democratic primary on June 28 include former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, Oyster Bay’s Reema Rasool and Melanie D’Arrigo of Port Washington.

While he lacks experience in political office, Zimmerman said he considers it one of his best qualities as a candidate and he isn’t afraid of running against previously elected politicians because he doesn’t believe it prohibits him from being an effective congressman.

“I don’t accept the conventional thinking that you have to be in local government to be able to serve effectively in Congress,” Zimmerman said. “I think my activism as a citizen, my advocacy nationally, my experience running a business, building a business over 33 years, are very important credentials for serving in Congress. It gives you a perspective that people who have been government bureaucrats or local politicians don’t necessarily have.”

Zimmerman’s virtual town hall with Blank Slate Media can be seen on our YouTube channel

A previous version of this story was published. It has since been updated. 

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here