New York House Race Features Two Openly Gay Candidates, A First

Screenshot/YouTube/George Santos for Congress

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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In a first, the two candidates challenging each other for the open seat in New York’s 3rd Congressional District happen to both be gay men.

Democrat Robert Zimmerman, 67, and Republican George Santos, 34, are running against each other to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who ran for governor instead. Both men are openly gay, the first time such a situation has occurred in federal electoral history, per NBC News.

Zimmerman is a public relations executive who worked as a Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill during the 1980s and was appointed to the National Council for the Humanities by President Barack Obama. Santos, meanwhile, is a former financier who worked for a succession of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs and Linkbridge Investors.

According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, the district – which includes parts of Nassau County in Long Island and the Queens borough of New York City – has a rating of just D+1, meaning a given Democratic candidate is projected to win by 1% of the vote, despite President Joe Biden winning it in the 2020 election by over 10%. The LGBTQ Victory Fund lists it as one of their sixteen competitive districts this midterm election.

To the candidates, however, their sexuality appears to be of little relevance. “Although we might share a sexual orientation … we are very different,” Santos said to NBC News, in a statement criticizing Zimmerman and President Joe Biden for inflation. Zimmerman, meanwhile, has called Santos a “fringe MAGA candidate,” echoing a term used by Biden, and criticized him for attending then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.

He has also criticized Santos for his opposition to abortion and for supporting Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, which prohibits discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation before the fourth grade. The bill, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, garnered wide acclaim from Republicans and elicited significant opposition from Democrats nationwide.

For his part, Santos, who is married, dismisses suggestions that the GOP is hostile to LGBTQ members. “As a lifelong Republican, I have never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party,” he said, adding, “I am an openly gay candidate. I am not shy.” (RELATED: New York Now Requires Social Media History For Pistol Permits)

Santos, if elected, would become the first openly gay Republican non-incumbent elected to either chamber of Congress, though former GOP Rep. Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin won reelection after his sexuality was revealed on the floor of the House in 1994.

Other Republican representatives who were revealed as gay either resigned or lost reelection to office. There has never been an openly gay Republican U.S. Senator, while no known members of the LGBTQ community have served as president or vice president of the United States or on the Supreme Court.

Among Democrats, nine incumbent members of the House and two Senators are openly gay, with one, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, being bisexual. One former member, Jared Polis of Colorado, retired from the House in 2019 and was elected governor of his state, becoming the first openly gay person elected a governor in the United States.

The Zimmerman and Santos campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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