Republican Congressman George Santos may have a new challenger. Zak Malamed, 29, has announced he will run in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, joining three others — Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, former State Sen. Anna Kaplan and law professor Will Murphy. Malamed is running for office for the first time.
“Voters in this community are looking for a fresh face,” Malamed said. “They just didn’t expect the fresh face to be the stain on the district that George Santos has become.”
Residents of the 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses the North Shore and parts of Queens, have a year and a half to decide who will represent them in Congress. Santos announced his bid for re-election in April, despite minuscule support from high-ranking Republicans and his own constituents. Indicted in May on 13 federal charges — including money laundering, fraud and theft of public funds — his popularity has dwindled even more. But despite his legal troubles, Santos has refused to resign from his Congressional seat.
Malamed, a lifelong Great Neck resident, attended his public school district before going to the University of Maryland in 2012. There he founded the advocacy group Student Voice to promote educational equity and ensure students’ voices be heard. By the time he graduated, in 2016, Student Voice had grown from a weekly Twitter presence into a national student-led call to action for more equitable schools.
In 2019 Malamed co-founded the Democratic fundraising
organization The Next 50. The advocacy group, which is also a federal political action committee, supports Democratic politicians under the age of 50. Notable alumni include Wes Moore, the 63rd governor of Maryland, and Elissa Blair Slotkin, a representative from Michigan’s 7th Congressional District.
Melamed decided to run for Congress, he said, because Santos has become a global embarrassment to the district. The first-time candidate said he hopes to transition his district’s reputation from that of shame and embarrassment to one of hope.
As part of his platform, Malamed said he plans to tackle the challenges of affordable healthcare. He worries about the rising costs of medical necessities, in addition to child and elder care. Malamed said he can still remember the crippling cost of healthcare his family faced when he was a child while his mother experienced chronic health issues.
While Malamed has no problem with allowing others to keep their private health insurance, he supports funding for public health insurance. Earlier this year, he found himself in a plight that many Americans face: a lapse in coverage, which occurred because when transitioning between jobs he missed the deadline to apply for coverage. While traveling overseas to visit family in Israel, Malamed was able to use his travel insurance to find affordable healthcare.
“The most wild thing is that my failsafe, my protection, my security blanket, was actually leaving the country to ensure that I had some form of access to healthcare,” Malamed said. “The cost of healthcare in this country is egregious, and unjust.”
Equal to his concern for public health and safety is his advocacy for gun control. Unlike Santos, who supports a bill to make the AR-15 assault rifle the national gun, Malamed is an outspoken advocate against gun violence.
For Malamed, it’s personal. He still mourns the death of a close friend, who, when buying a burrito at a San Francisco gas station in 2021, was caught in the crossfire of a shooting.
Malamed himself narrowly escaped being shot outside a music venue in San Francisco. He vividly remembers seeing the discharge of fire from the gun before guiding his friends to safety behind nearby cars.
“I saw things in San Francisco that I want to make sure don’t happen here in New York,” Malamed said. “The issue of gun safety is paramount for public safety. It’s paramount for me.”
If elected, Malamed said he also wants to ensure that Americans have access to affordable housing. He believes that the rising costs of medical care and energy, as well as post-pandemic inflation, have contributed to the severe increase in housing market prices. He hopes to create incentives for communities on state and national levels to work to build affordable housing, rather than imposing the developments on communities. He said he understands the impact these developments would have on a community’s resources. His strategy is to analyze the impact housing developments have on communities due to the increase in population.
“For a generation like mine, the rising cost of housing makes it unattainable to buy here,” Malamed said. “We need to find ways to make it more accessible.”