It’s the most open of the congressional primaries on Long Island: a five-way Democratic battle with no clear frontrunners, no single issues and no clear idea of who will come to vote in the fourth week of August.
It’s the fight to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi of Glen Cove in the 3rd congressional district, which stretches from part of northeast Queens to the entire north shore of Nassau County and dips south through the along the Nassau-Suffolk border to Massapequa Park.
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It includes community organizer Melanie D’Arrigo, former North Hempstead supervisor Jon Kaiman, county legislator Josh Lafazan, businesswoman Reema Rasool and longtime Democratic National Committee member and public relations officer Robert Zimmermann.
“It’s the flagship race” on Long Island, said Lawrence Levy, dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
“It would be an unusually competitive primary for a congressional seat anywhere, but particularly on Long Island where elected officials tend to stay in office,” Levy said. “The fact that it’s an open seat is, of course, why it’s so competitive. But it also reflects the divisions within the Democratic Party.
The five say they support a number of similar issues, supporting gun safety, protecting abortion rights and fighting climate change. Bruce Gyory, a political consultant and former adviser to two New York governors, said there was likely “very little disagreement about how they would vote on bills that come to the House.”
But the five are clearly targeting different “lanes” within the party, he and other analysts said.
“Zimmerman is the traditional Liberal Democrat. Kaiman is the centrist,” Gyory said. “Lafazan leans towards the conservative side of the base. D’Arrigo is the pure progressive. Rasool targets emerging communities.
“So a big question will be, who can cultivate enough voters to say, ‘Yeah, I like their approach,'” Gyory said.
Zimmerman, 67, of Great Neck has lined up an array of high-profile and heavyweight supporters, including the AFL-CIO and at least nine other unions, former Sen. Hillary Clinton, the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Committee Democratic Queens County.
Kaiman, 60, from Great Neck, can make the case for the district’s higher profile as he led the town of North Hempstead for five terms. Although he doesn’t have as much union support as Zimmerman, he recently gained endorsement from 32BJ, the union for building maintenance workers, janitors and janitors. It is widely considered to have one of the best political operations among New York unions.
“They have a very well-rehearsed and sophisticated voting operation,” Gyory said.
Lafazan, 28, of Woodbury, had a slight financial edge at the end of July, having raised $1.5 million, just ahead of Zimmerman’s $1.2 million. He was the first to post an ad and he has Suozzi’s endorsement, even using the “common-sense Democrat” label that Suozzi used in his unsuccessful gubernatorial run.
Rasool, 43, of Jericho, highlighted her status as the first South Asian to be on the ballot in the 3rd congressional district. Although she trailed her rivals in fundraising, with a total of $82,946, she pushed grassroots efforts to get supporters out.
D’Arrigo, 41, of Port Washington, says she has the most support from organizations, including the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Working Families Party. She supports a 2% wealth tax for individuals earning more than $50 million a year.
D’Arrigo sought to use a recent online debate to distinguish himself from the field and cast doubt on Lafazan.
In a forum hosted by Schneps Media and AM New York, D’Arrigo slammed Lafazan for changing his voter registration from Independent to Democratic just months ago and for accepting the Conservative Party’s endorsement when he swore. is presented to the County Legislature.
D’Arrigo also questioned why Lafazan sponsored legislation in 2021 that would have made county police and first responders a “protected class” under Nassau’s human rights law and allowed them to sue when faced with “discrimination” from protesters.
Then-county executive Laura Curran vetoed the bill after the state attorney general’s office said it might not constitutionally hold up and it already existed state protections for police and first responders.
Lafazan said his intention was to help protect police, and once the attorney general weighed in, he listened and decided not to support a veto waiver.
This prompted Zimmerman to step in and say that Lafazan had not met with black leaders and gay and lesbian groups who strongly opposed the legislation, saying it would restrict free speech.
Later, Zimmerman added, “I never took the curator (endorsement) like Josh did.”
Lafazan called the idea that “I am a conservative” outrageous, noting that he supports gun control and abortion rights.
Lafazan also differed from the field when he said he would follow Suozzi’s lead and join a caucus of “problem-solvers” in Congress, a bipartisan group that seeks to craft laws.
Other Democrats have derided the caucus as ineffective, too aligned with corporate interests or not sufficiently representing party values.
“No, I know which side I’m on,” Kaiman said, when asked to join the caucus.
All of the candidates said they opposed an oft-proposed bridge from Long Island Sound to Connecticut, then argued over who had the strongest claim on the issue.
Lafazan claimed he was the first Nassau official to speak out when the then-governor. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed the idea four years ago. But veteran pols Zimmerman and Kaiman noted that the idea had been debated for years and had been opposed by almost every Democrat for longer than Lafazan had been involved.
With the vote just days away, the campaign’s final push is going to be big — and unpredictable — said George Arzt, a veteran Democratic consultant who isn’t involved in that race.
TV and online ads can help, but old-fashioned techniques will be needed to get supporters to the polls at a time when many voters are taking vacations or not focusing on the election, he said.
“I think you’re going to have to drive people around with mail, social media, and lots of street campaigning,” Arzt said. “And in your mail, you have to get out of the pack somehow.”
He added: “It will be risky. Much will depend on personal relationships. What you don’t know is: what message matters in the district? »
3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary
- Melanie D’Arrigo, 41, of Port Washington, is a health care advocate and community organizer. She helped found Be The Rainbow, a non-profit organization that champions the interests of the LGBTQ+ community. D’Arrigo helped establish a Nassau County chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a nonprofit organization focused on fighting climate change. She received a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and a master’s degree in science from Long Island University.
- Jon Kaiman, 60, of Great Neck, has served as Suffolk County Deputy Executive since 2017. Prior to that, he worked for two and a half years helping coordinate Superstorm Sandy’s recovery efforts and chaired the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. He served as North Hempstead Town Supervisor from 2004 to 2013. He holds a Juris Doctorate from Hofstra Law School and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University.
- Joshua Lafazan, 28, of Woodbury, is in his third term as Nassau County legislator. Lafazan works as an advisor to Northwell Health on its corporate social responsibility efforts. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations in 2016, earned a master’s degree in educational policy and management from Harvard University in 2017, and is pursuing a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. .
- Reema Rasool, 43, from Jericho, is the founder of Luxe Consulting Group, a company that aims to attract foreign investors to infrastructure projects in the United States. She also founded a support group to unite South Asian women entrepreneurs. She received a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Creative Writing from New York University.
- Robert P. Zimmerman, 67, of Great Neck, is co-chairman and co-founder of public relations firm ZE Creative Communications. He has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2000. He also worked as an aide to Long Island Rep. Lester Wolff and Rep. James Scheuer, and advised former Rep. Gary Ackerman. He graduated cum laude from Brandeis University and earned an MBA from Fordham University.