Democrat Robert Zimmerman warned “the future of our democracy is at stake” in the November elections, including the race he is running against Republican George Santos for New York’s 3rd Congressional District.
“The issues that have inspired me, motivated me and brought me into public affairs are all on the line,” Zimmerman said during a virtual interview with Blank Slate Media. “Everything I believe in is on the line.”
Zimmerman, 67, criticized Santos for his support for stopping the vote count during the 2020 presidential election and for financially aiding the U.S. Capitol rioters on Jan. 6. Santos was quoted as saying he was “at the ellipse on Jan. 6,” and appears on another video saying he “wrote a nice check for a law firm” to aid the rioters who stormed the building.
“The most important thing we can do on Nov. 8 with our votes is to make it clear that we respect and support free and fair elections,” Zimmerman said. “We hold those accountable who try to overturn the election for personal agendas.”
A pro-choice advocate, Zimmerman echoed his commitment to codifying Roe v. Wade into law, if elected. The decision to have an abortion should be one made between a doctor and the patient, he said, criticizing Santos for previously telling Blank Slate Media he would vote to support a nationwide ban on abortions in 2020.
“[Santos] said he actually wanted to prosecute doctors who provided abortion services, actually advocated no exceptions for abortions and he did say that women would actually use rape as an excuse to get an abortion,” Zimmerman said. “Such a hateful, misogynistic thing to say.”
Charley Lovett, Santos’ campaign manager responded to Zimmerman’s comments about his stance on the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 insurrection and abortion laws in a statement.
“Robert Zimmerman is doing everything he can – including lying about George’s positions – to try to distract voters from the disasters that Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi’s policies have caused with Robert Zimmerman’s full support,” Lovett said. “His policies have resulted in out-of-control cost of living and surging violent crime. We are confident that the voters in the 3rd Congressional District will see right through it, because they’re focused on issues that impact their daily lives.”
Santos was not present at the virtual forum despite invitations from Blank Slate Media.
Zimmerman said he believes that, while the bail reform laws contributed to the increase in crime on various levels, other factors such as the coronavirus pandemic have played a role as well.
“We also have to consider and look at the impact of the pandemic, the amount of homelessness, the amount of mental health crises that exist,” he said. “People being put out of their jobs and people living in very abject, desperate conditions, there are a lot of factors that contribute to it.”
Supporting the police and expanding gun safety legislation, he said, are imperative to curb growing crime rates and gun violence throughout the state. Implementing red-flag laws and background checks, he said, will help lead the efforts to get assault weapons off of the streets.
Regarding foreign policy, Zimmerman said the United States should have a role in preventing Russian President Vladimir Putin from occupying Ukraine and potentially other territories in efforts to reassemble the Soviet Union. While domestic issues are important, he said, ensuring greater safety is also a paramount concern of his.
“I think there are steps we can take to alleviate the burdens here, but a much greater tragedy for our nation and for the world would be to in any way appease Vladimir Putin and allow him to march forward, occupy or take over part of Ukraine or expand beyond Ukraine.”
While it may be necessary to rely on fossil fuels in the short term, Zimmerman said, he does not want to move to offshore oil drilling on either coast. Investing in solar, wind and other renewable energy resources would help stabilize the energy marketplace also help combat climate change throughout the nation.
“We’ve got to understand the future is going to be in recognizing the climate crisis and making sure to create clean energy union jobs and prepare America to move into the new economy,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman stressed the importance of finding ways to achieve bipartisanship in Congress. The presence of extremism and divisive political figures in office, he said, will present some obstacles for him.
“It’s my job, if I’m given the privilege of serving, to find those Republicans I can build common grounds with,” he said. “But there are many members of Congress who don’t think that I’m entitled to the same rights they are because I’m a gay man. And that’s painful and difficult.”
Both Zimmerman and Santos are openly gay and would become the first such member of Congress from Long Island and Queens.
A Great Neck resident, Zimmerman is the 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. He is running on the Democratic and Working Family Parties lines.
The state’s 3rd Congressional District includes the entire Town of North Hempstead including parts of Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Garden City, Mineola and Westbury villages. 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.