Congressional candidates George Santos and Robert Zimmerman do not agree on most issues, but repealing the cap on state and local taxes is something they both aim to accomplish, if elected, during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Port Washington-Manhasset branch on Thursday.
The two candidates for the state’s 3rd Congressional District said repealing the cap, signed into law by former President Donald Trump, is one of the most important methods of putting money back into the hands of taxpayers throughout the state. The cap limits the dedication for state and local taxes on federal tax returns to $10,000.
“Mr. Zimmerman and I don’t agree on most issues but we both agree that the SALT deduction,” Santos, a Republican, said. “It is a right that should be restored and I’ve been on the frontlines, advocating for the SALT reinstation because we are amongst the highest-taxed areas in the country.”
“Restoring the state and local tax dedication is absolutely essential,” Zimmerman, a Democrat, said. “It was outrageous it was ever taken away from us and by denying it to us, it is a double taxation that we’re all facing.”
Santos, 34, said he believed the Supreme Court made the correct decision in overturning Roe v Wade and allowing each state to decide whether or not abortions will be legally accessible, noting that abortions are still protected under New York’s state law.
“This is an empowering moment for women all across the country to advocate for what they believe is best for them,” Santos said. “In New York, nothing will change, nobody’s rights are at risk.”
Zimmerman, 67, said there is no part of the Dobbs decision he supports and would, if elected, vote to codify Roe v. Wade. The decision to have each state decide whether or not to make abortions legal, he said, puts women’s lives at risk.
“Women will die because of that decision,” Zimmerman said. “The bigger concern I have on top of that, is that we have to understand the Dobbs decision opens up a whole range of other cases coming forward… potentially, marriage equality.”
Both candidates are openly gay and would become the first openly gay member of Congress from Long Island and Queens.
Zimmerman again criticized Santos for defending rioters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He touted the importance of ensuring democracy reigns throughout the nation.
“Protecting our democracy is essential,” he said. “Making sure we always put our Constitution and our electoral process ahead of political ambition and political gain.”
Santos said his opponent continues to speak for him and has been making the election about both candidates rather than the constituents.
He did say that President Joe Biden won the 2021 race with Trump but did not address Zimmerman’s comments surrounding the Jan. 6 events.
“Joe Biden won the election, he wasn’t my choice, however, I respect the fact that he holds the office of president of the United States,” he said. “I want him to be successful because his success is the success of every single person in this room and every single person in this country.”
Santos lauded his endorsements with local police unions and organizations, including the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.
He said he will prioritize securing federal funding to aid law enforcement throughout the district and bashed those who desire to defund the police.
“I am proud to say I am the law and order candidate in this contest and I will support law enforcement by securing federal funding for them,” he said. “Every time a local municipality decides to defund the police, I will go to Washington D.C. and bring them back federal dollars to make sure that our kids are safe, every woman and man in this room are safe.”
Zimmerman, who received an endorsement from former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, said he is an advocate of changes to the state’s bail reform laws and will continue to fight to give judges more discretion. Establishing more gun safety legislation, he said, is a key step to enhancing public safety.
“One of the most important ways in Congress we can ensure public safety is by putting in strong, safe and effective gun safety legislation, it is long overdue,” he said.
Trusting the science, Zimmerman said, is integral when trying to combat climate change. While using fossil fuels in the short-term is necessary, he said, investing more in clean energy union jobs is something he will look to enhance throughout the district, if elected.
“[Climate change] is a threat to our national security, it’s a threat to our public safety, it’s a threat to our quality of life and our future,” he said.
Santos said, despite not being a Town of North Hempstead resident, he stood with others to combat a floodgate proposal under the Throgs Neck Bridge after concerns rose about how it would impact Long Island. Santos said that climate “is a cycle” and bashed Democratic officials for not delivering anything “substantial” towards combatting the current climate.
“I’m not perfect, I don’t think my opponent is, but I really want to see the Democratic party step up to the plate and deliver on their promises on climate change,” Santos said.
The Republican said he wants to deliver affordability and prosperity to his constituents along with combatting inflation so that everyone else can live the “American Dream” he has lived.
“I will be your partner, your friend and your biggest advocate in Washington D.C. in the sea of corruption and dismay that that place is,” Santos said.
Zimmerman said his “American Dream” is to have members in Congress that will fight gun violence with necessary legislation, advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights, along with protecting democracy at all costs.
“By working in a bipartisan way, we can truly help achieve the ‘American Dream’,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman is co-president of ZE Creative Communications on Bond Street in Great Neck, a public relations firm he started 33 years ago with Ron Edelson and a Democratic national committeeman.
Zimmerman previously worked as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill for Congressmen Lester Wolff, James Scheuer and Gary Ackerman. His advocacy 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.
Santos, who ran against current 3rd District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in 2020, was named a “Young Gun” candidate in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program earlier this year, his campaign said.
New district maps were submitted recently by a court-appointed special master and have been viewed as more neutral compared to ones that were previously rejected by the state Appeals Court.
While the 3rd Congressional District under the new proposal does not extend as far west as the Bronx or Westchester, it does stretch to more southern parts of Nassau County such as Hicksville and Massapequa. The new lines do exclude the parts of the district that now stretch into Suffolk County, mainly Huntington and Smithtown.