Last week, we reported on the new lines drawn by state lawmakers that were designed to ensure gains for Democratic candidates and incumbents. One such example is the Third Congressional District, which covers the north shore of Long Island, the portion of Queens east of the Cross Island Parkway with a sliver of Bay Terrace, plus communities in the Bronx and Westchester on the shore of Long Island Sound.
With incumbent Tom Suozzi running in a primary against Gov. Kathy Hochul, this moderate suburban seat could be a toss-up within the diverse Democratic tent. Initially, the most progressive candidate here was Melanie D’Arrigo of Port Washington, who ran in a primary against Suozzi two years ago with 40 percent of her party’s vote.
But on Monday, State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, 35, entered the race and quickly emerged as the progressive standard-bearer. “Our country doesn’t just need more Democrats in Washington, we need bolder ones,” she said in a statement. “I am running for Congress in NY-3 to bring progressive and honest leadership to the frontlines of our country’s most important fights.”
The Pelham resident is often compared to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not only because of her views on defunding police, bail reform, and legalizing recreational marijuana, but also for defeating a longtime moderate incumbent. In 2018, she ran in a primary against Jeff Klein, attacking him as a traitor to her party for caucusing with the Republicans. Biaggi’s victory handed the State Senate to the Democrats, who also had control of the Assembly and the Governor’s mansion. Two years later, she endorsed fellow progressive Jamaal Bowman in his successful primary against pro-Israel incumbent Eliot Engel in a district covering Riverdale and southern Westchester.
On the opposite side of this intra-party contest is Nassau county legislator Josh Lafazan, 28, who made headlines last year for sponsoring a bill that labeled anti-cop violence as a hate crime. At the start of the new year, the Woodbury resident posted his ability to collect $450,000 in the first 18 days of this campaign.
“During my conversations with people throughout this district, it has become clear that the voters of NY-03 are looking for a candidate who can both keep this seat in Democrat hands, and once elected, go to Washington on their behalf to deliver results,” he wrote. “I passed a record number of bills for one simple reason: I listened to my constituents and worked side by side with them to find practical solutions. I plan to continue that same approach when I get to Congress.”
The Harvard graduate made history for his age-related electoral feats: as a member of the Syosset School Board at age 18, and as a county legislator at 23.
Matching Lafazan’s quick fundraising is Great Neck’s Robert Zimmerman, 67, a public relations executive who raised a slightly higher amount in the same timeframe, along with high-profile endorsements from elected officials and community leaders across the district and beyond. In his effort to secure the Jewish vote, he noted Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal as one of his early supporters. “Robert will provide steady leadership and strengthen our coalitions from New York to Capitol Hill,” Rosenthal wrote. “Robert is a strong supporter of the US-Israel relationship and stands in ardent opposition to the BDS movement.”
Last Sunday, Zimmerman appeared in Jamaica Estates at the Queens Jewish Community Council’s legislative breakfast. Some of his high-profile supporters, such as Assemblyman Charles Lavine and former Rep. Gary Ackerman, spoke of his support for Israel along with reproductive rights, environmental advocacy, and gun control – essentially a pro-Israel liberal akin to Rep. Ritchie Torres of the Bronx.
Other primary candidates in this race include Suffolk deputy executive Jon Kaiman, and Oyster Bay businesswoman Reema Rasool. The primary will take place on Tuesday, June 28, with the winner facing off against Bayside Republican George Santos.
By Sergey Kadinsky