Democratic candidate discusses why he’s running to replace George Santos in Congress

Photo courtesy of Zak Malamed

Zak Malamed, a 29-year-old Great Neck native, is running to be the Democratic candidate in the 2024 election for New York’s 3rd Congressional District with the hope of unseating controversial Congressman George Santos.

Malamed is the co-founder of The Next 50, an advocacy group dedicated to investing in the next generation of political leadership in order to create a more representative democracy. Since founding it in 2019, he has dedicated much of his time and energy towards defeating MAGA Republicans in competitive district and state races across the country.

Through the organization’s events and educational programming, Malamed has helped to uplift some of the next generation of political leaders, including Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Colorado Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo, North Carolina Congressman Jeff Jackson, Minnesota Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, New Mexico Congressman Gabe Vasquez, Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, Michigan Senator Mallory McMarrow and many more.

“I never expected that I would have an extreme MAGA Republican representing me in my home congressional district,” Malamed told QNS. “In the weeks after George Santos was elected to office, I had friends and leaders in the district calling me, telling me ‘it’s time to put up or shut up.’ It took a while for me to get into a place where it was time to put up, but I did that about a month ago. I believe that we’re the campaign that’s in the best position to win this race, in large part because of the history that I have defeating extreme MAGA Republicans, but also because I have a vision for the future of this district.”

Malamed’s visions that he has stressed as a candidate relate to public safety, public education and the ability to raise a family. When discussing the threat public education has faced recently in certain parts of the country, Malamed stressed the importance of investing in it, saying it is paramount to him as a candidate.

“My grandmother moved to Great Neck because of the promise of public education,” Malamed said. “My parents also stayed here because of that promise of public education. I continued that work, founding an education nonprofit, Student Voice, that helps students advocate for equity and education.”

He also said it is critical to invest in public safety, especially when it comes to gun safety. Gun safety has been an important part of Malamed’s life since well before he became a candidate for New York’s 3rd Congressional District. In 2009, he was working for then-Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel when he accompanied her on a trip to Albany to take part in a rally from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence advocating for gun safety. Additionally, in 2020, Malamed lost a friend to gun violence.

Malamed noted that it is increasingly challenging for his generation to be able to afford raising a family, especially within New York’s third congressional district. This is mainly due to the skyrocketing costs of living.

“With every vote I take, I’m going to be focused on how I make sure that we’re both improving the quality of life and making it easier to live paycheck-to-paycheck,” Malamed said.

After graduating from the University of Maryland, Malamed worked for Emerson Collective’s XQ Institute. He was responsible for working on projects to reimagine and revamp American public high schools, finding common ground with American people across the country and ideological spectrum on the issue of improving public education. He also spent time working for major tech companies, assisting them in launching youth leadership and civic education programs.

“The only reason I pivoted to politics was because I recognized it matters who’s making decisions about students, teachers and families,” Malamed said. “Issues of healthcare, immigration policy and climate policy and public safety — they all intersect in the school building. My history, my family and my career align with the values of my community and the values that I hope to bring to Congress.”

While the 3rd Congressional District includes parts of both Long Island and Queens, Malamed emphasized the importance for a candidate like him to be able to connect with potential Queens voters. He feels this especially true for Democratic candidates. He believes that the Democratic candidate will need to earn the support of Queens in order to emerge victorious in the general election.

“Queens is the Democratic face and heart of this district,” Malamed said. “I believe that the way we started this candidacy and the way we’re going to finish this candidacy is by showing folks we’re going to be there. We’re not going to take any vote for granted. We’re going to earn people’s support. We’re going to do the work and we’re going to be responsive to the moment that we’re in right now.”