By Karen Rubin
Out of a strong Democratic field for Congress for the 3rd District, Robert Zimmerman will get my vote. Early voting begins Aug. 13; Election Day is Tues., Aug. 23.
Jon Kaiman, who I would be proud to call my congressman, has an exceptional resume and a proven record as North Hempstead supervisor, as the deputy county executive of Suffolk. He knows the nitty gritty of local governance (which is distinct from politics) and has been a bold, visionary leader. He has had to negotiate, compromise, ultimately be the decision-maker and leader. Kaiman’s strength is in governance. He has proved his ability to fine-tune policies into actual programs that better the lives of community. And he has proved he can win elections.
Congress, though, is a very different milieu than local government, offering a much narrower corridor for leadership and bold, visionary ideas. And when you think about it, the role of a congressman is not the same as the town supervisor or county executive or even the governor. The function of a congressional reps is to turn policy into legislation that affects the lives of everyday Americans and can get past maliciously partisan obstruction. The role of a congressman, at its heart, is more political than “governance.”
Besides being keenly engaged in the key policies championed by left-of-center Democrats, Zimmerman, who is a Great Neck resident, has been a stalwart advocate for women’s rights and reproductive rights, voting rights, Medicare for All, LGBTQ+ rights, gun safety policies, a truly safe and secure Israel and a two-state solution in the Middle East, comprehensive immigration reform, restoring the SALT deduction, protecting the environment and climate action.
But Zimmerman brings an added strength: communication and messaging – he has done it throughout his career as a public relations/marketing executive and as an on-air pundit for national cable news channels. And what Democrats need probably more than anything at a time when the Republican Party, in the throes of White Christo Fascists, is weaponizing agitprop, propaganda, fake news and outright lies in a war of words, is a messaging maven. You only have to listen to bits from CPAC to understand the danger.
Zimmerman has been a force behind the scenes of politics at every level for decades. Former Congressman Gary Ackerman, in his endorsement, noted, “Robert has been a close adviser to me over the years, and in that time I have seen him in action in our congressional district and on Capitol Hill. During these most critical and challenging of times, Robert Zimmerman is eminently and uniquely qualified to serve in Congress to represent our values. He believes America’s military strength must be matched by its moral leadership, and I know Robert to be a stalwart advocate for economic security, staunchly pro-Israel and a national voice for education, clean air and water, and preserving a woman’s right to choose. He will provide strong and steady leadership for us in Washington, DC.”
Ideologically, both Zimmerman and Kaiman hug the left-of-center, pragmatic progressive values without going for pie-in-the-sky-line-in-the-sand proposals, and have the skill and gravitas to achieve results, to the extent anyone can, especially if (horror of horrors) the Republicans take control of Congress.
I have to say that while I see strengths in both Kaiman and Zimmerman, I am persuaded by Zimmerman’s list of endorsements that include just about everyone I admire and respect, from Tom DiNapoli to Judi Bosworth to Hillary Clinton – an extraordinarily broad coalition that touches on all the issues that Democrats, even the progressives, have been desperately trying to achieve for decades.
He’s won the endorsement of JoAnn D. Smith, the retired CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, who said, “Women’s health and reproductive freedom are under assault like never before and we need leaders, not just voices in Congress, who will protect and preserve our rights. Robert Zimmerman will be that leader. I know that because he has been a champion for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights both nationally and locally.”
Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder and CEO of Vote Mama, in her endorsement, said, “Robert Zimmerman is exactly the kind of representative we so desperately need in Congress. Washington is filled with people who are there to serve themselves and are beholden to special interests, but Robert is different. He has dedicated his life to advancing progressive policy and fighting for those who are so often dismissed by people in power.”
She added, “Robert doesn’t just talk about doing what is right – he takes action. He is one of the few politicians that will not accept corporate PAC money in his campaign. He is an ardent supporter of Medicare for All and is not afraid to take on powerful interests to defend healthcare as a human right. He will protect women’s rights, combat environmental injustice, and fight to end the gun violence epidemic. I am proud to endorse my dear friend, Robert Zimmerman, who will bring compassion and decency to Congress.”
State Assemblyman Charles Lavine declared, “We are facing unprecedented challenges to rebuild our infrastructure and protect the Long Island Sound and our environment. Robert’s keen understanding of Washington, and his proven dedication to our communities, makes him uniquely qualified to advocate effectively in Congress. I look forward to partnering with him in our mission to protect our environment and enhance our quality of life.”
John R. Durso, President of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, said, “It is becoming increasingly important to have representatives in Washington, D.C., who are willing to fight for our country’s working families. Robert Zimmerman has been a longtime friend of Local 338 and has supported our essential workers from the very start of the pandemic. With plans to protect voting rights, combat climate change, and a commitment to fight for working people, Robert Zimmerman is clearly the best choice for the 3rd Congressional District. We’re proud to endorse him to be our next United States representative, and we know he’ll serve as a strong voice for working people not just in New York, but across the country.”
Perhaps most importantly in deciding who to vote for in the Democratic primary, is which Democrat has the best chance of winning. Democrats cannot afford to lose a single House seat.
Kaiman has won elections in the past, is probably better known in parts of the district where he governed, but Zimmerman has the broadest coalition of support, may be better known in the newly drawn district because of his national platform and has made the best effort at outreach.
Zimmerman has demonstrated his interest in being hyper-local by holding town halls all over the redrawn district – which also speaks to the importance he places on reaching out, being accessible, getting to know constituents personally. I’ve known Zimmerman for decades; I can’t wait to call him congressman.