A contender to replace Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi in next week’s Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District is facing heat for his links to prominent Republicans.
Robert Zimmerman does business through his Zimmerman-Edelson PR firm with Nassau County Republican Party chairman Joe Cairo, who is president of the Nassau Off-Track Betting Corporation.
Zimmerman’s firm is on retainer with Nassau OTB, he has responded to reporter inquiries sent to the wagering agency, and has done work with the Republican-run Town of Hempstead, records show.
Zimmerman-Edelson also donated $1,000 to the Nassau County Republican Committee in 2007, gave $500 to former GOP Rep. Peter King in 2014 and made three donations totaling $1,750 to Citizens For Anthony Santino, supporters of the longtime Hempstead councilman.
Zimmerman’s investment portfolio has also raised eyebrows.
As Democrats push to ween America off fossil fuels, his personal financial disclosure form shows mutual fund investments of between $1,000 and $15,000 with oil companies ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips.
Zimmerman, a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, also has investments in tobacco companies British American Tobacco, Phillip Morris; and pharmaceutical giants Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson.
He also owns between $1,000 and $15,000 of Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR), a fund which holds shares in gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger.
Zimmerman’s rep said the candidate does not pick his stocks and the investments are part of a diversified mutual fund portfolio.
But his rival, Nassau County legislator Joshua Lafazan, has accused Zimmerman of hypocrisy.
“Zimmerman has spent the last few weeks lobbing desperate and hypocritical attacks at Josh while his own campaign is flailing,” Lafazan campaign advisor Kim Devlin said. “He is a classic old school politician who cozies up to anyone who can pad his pockets while Josh has actually led on Democratic values like abortion access, gun reform and affordable healthcare.”
Zimmerman, for his part, has attacked Lafazan for running in the past with backing from the Conservative Party and his campaign urged the Federal Elections Commission to probe whether Lafazan boosted his campaign coffers by funneling money there from a billionaire couple who covered at least $50,000 of his college tuition payments through a loan.
“From helping to fund the anti-abortion Conservative Party, to being widely criticized by the NAACP and LGBTQ groups for backing right-wing priorities, to refusing to come clean about whether he voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — there’s good reason why Democrats don’t trust Josh Lafazan,” said Zimmerman campaign spokesman Jason Kaplan. “That’s why Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton, Rep. Grace Meng, and Rep. Greg Meeks all endorsed Robert Zimmerman.”
Other candidates in the race include Jon Kaiman, who has served as a Town of North Hempstead supervisor and county judge; health care advocate Melanie D’Arrigo and Reema Rasool.
The 3rd Congressional District includes portions of Nassau, Suffolk and a sliver of Queens. Primary day is set for Aug. 23, with early voting happening through Sunday.