Robert Zimmerman is still running against George Santos

Robert Zimmerman is still running against George Santos
Photo: Zimmerman for Congress

George Santos is a dead grifter walking. He’s under all kinds of criminal investigations in the U.S. and Brazil. According to a poll of voters in his district, his popularity is on par with a bad case of fungus. It’s not a question of him never being re-elected. The only question is whether he will resign from his term when he’s indicted or wait until he’s convicted.

Watching all this play out is Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat who lost to Santos last November. Like Santos, Zimmerman is gay. Unlike Santos, Zimmerman is honest.

Zimmerman is in the uncomfortable position of sympathizing with residents of Santos’ district who are beside themselves that their Congressman can’t say “hello” without lying while having to endure their expressions of pity for his loss.

Even though the election is over, Zimmerman continues to work the circuit, reassuring voters that this too shall pass. “We’re going to get him out of office,” he repeatedly tells Santos’ disgusted constituents as he makes the rounds in the Long Island district.

If Zimmerman sounds like he’s running for office, well, maybe he is. But if he is, he’s keeping it to himself. He says his focus is on holding Santos accountable for the seemingly endless list of lies he’s perpetrated on unsuspecting voters.

“There’s been a crime committed here, and it’s a crime which has robbed people of their confidence in our democracy and our political system,” Zimmerman told the Washington Post.

The problem is that New York Democrats–Zimmerman included–were accessories in the crime. They ran a paint-by-numbers campaign with virtually no opposition research against Santos. It’s not as if it was hard to find scandal about Santos. One of his ex-boyfriends found out about Santos’ criminal history in Brazil simply by doing a Google search. A local newspaper chronicled Santos’ lies. Zimmerman never did anything with that gift of information. His campaign simply tried to portray Santos as your standard GOP extremist.

“It’s his fault, but it’s not his fault,” Jon Kaiman, who finished second to Zimmerman in the Democratic primary, told the Post. “It’s all of our faults. We’re collectively responsible.”

“I carry the pain and frustration of the loss with me,” Zimmerman acknowledges. But he’s also getting a lot of positive attention that eluded him the first time around.

Last year’s race was Zimmerman’s fourth, all of them unsuccessful. He had tried to run for Congress once before, and twice for the state legislature. His even-keeled approach to politics has won him respect, but not, unfortunately, enough votes.

Even Republicans like him.

“I really don’t know anyone who dislikes him,” Republican Peter T. King, a former Long Island congressman, told the Washington Post. King described Zimmerman as “a very straight-arrow guy, a very decent guy.”

Zimmerman’s likeability, combined with his earnestness and the sympathy he’s gained as a victim of Santos’ con artistry, puts him in good stead for when Santos does leave Congress. In the event of a special election, party leaders would pick the candidate to run. The question is whether they would go with the guy who already lost or if they would make Zimmerman the scapegoat for a party-wide failure.

In the meantime, Zimmerman is pounding the pavement in the district, doing his best to make life miserable for Santos and push voters to get him removed from Congress. For his part, Santos is invisible in his own district. For all intents and purposes, Zimmerman is already doing a better job acting like a Congressman than Santos is.

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