Two gay candidates, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, are vying to represent a New York district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Democrat Robert Zimmerman and Republican George Santos are running for the seat in the state's Third Congressional District, which includes most of Long Island's north shore. The incumbent, Democrat Tom Suozzi, is not seeking reelection. It's the first time two out members of the LGBTQ+ community are running against each other in a general election, NBC News notes. The district leans Democratic, but the race is competitive.
"It was going to happen sooner or later," Donald Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, told NBC. "The question was always finding an LGBTQ Republican who can get support in a primary." Santos had no opposition in the Republican primary.
The two candidates have very different ideologies. Santos's website shows conservative positions on taxes, energy, and other issues, while Zimmerman's stances are liberal. Santos's site doesn't mention LGBTQ+ issues or reproductive rights, but he has made statements against abortion rights, and he has posted an Instagram video expressing support for Florida's "don't say gay" law. Zimmerman's site states that he is pro-choice and its committed to passing the Equality Act, a national LGBTQ+ rights law. Zimmerman runs a communications firm and is a former congressional staffer; Santos has long worked in finance and investing, and he ran unsuccessfully against Suozzi in 2020.
Santos was present at the Donald Trump rally that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Trump supporters tried to stop the certification of the electoral vote for Joe Biden.
"I'm not running against any Republican. I'm running against a Republican that is part of the radical fringe. He is a MAGA candidate," Zimmerman told NBC. He said Santos "defended the insurrectionists."
Santos has said Trump "was at his full awesomeness" at the rally but said he did not participate in or support the storming of the Capitol. "I came out very early to say it was a dark, dark day in our country and we needed a lot of healing after that," he told the network.
There are 11 out members of the LGBTQ+ community in Congress right now -- two in the Senate and nine in the House. All are Democrats. Santos is the only Republican congressional candidate from the community. Zimmerman has the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.