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'Everything I'm about to tell you is true': 29-year-old Zak Malamed launches campaign for Congress in GOP Rep. George Santos' district
Malamed is co-founder of The Next 50, an organization that supports candidates under 50 running for office. He said he's running to bring a "fresh face" of leadership to NY-03.
Zak Malamed — the 29-year-old co-founder of The Next 50, an organization that supports political candidates under 50 — announced today that he’s running for Congress in New York’s 3rd congressional district, which is currently represented by embattled Congressman George Santos.
“Everything I’m about to tell you is true,” Malamed says at the top of his campaign launch video, a not-so-subtle jab at Santos, who is facing criminal investigation for a series of charges including wire fraud, money laundering, and lying to Congress.
You may recognize Zak’s name. The millennial Long-Island native has been a prominent voice in the youth vote space for years, having started the youth-led Student Voice organization, which advocates for uplifting student perspectives in education policy and The Next 50, a donor network that backs political candidates under 50 in swing districts and states. In an effort to boost the next generation of leaders, a primary goal of The Next 50 is to provide young candidates with the financial support they may otherwise struggle to secure.
Today, I spoke with Malamed to learn more about his campaign for Congress.
Asked why he’s running, Malamed said:
“I never imagined that the most extreme MAGA Republican of them all would be representing me in my own home congressional district. When you see your home or your family struggling you have two choices: you avoid them and run away or you help and serve.”
Malamed said he understands that his district is looking for a “fresh face” (demonstrated by Santos’ success in the first place) and is running to provide an alternative to the serial liar.
“When I graduated high school I had the exact same school board as what my mom had when she graduated from high school. That continuity and leadership permeated up and down the ballot here in Long Island on Nassau county, and for a long while that worked… [but] in the wake of the pandemic that started to shift and what became clear to me is that those who had been stepping up and serving for so long, that leadership was no longer working for residents of this community,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity here to show what a fresh face can look like.”
But Malamed’s not the only young candidate in the race, and he’s the fourth Democrat overall to throw his hat in the ring for the nomination. So far, Nassau County legislator Josh Lafazan (who’s also 29-years-old), former New York state Sen. Anna Kaplan (who’s 57), and law professor Will Murphy (who’s 39) are also running. Republican Kellen Curry, an Afghanistan war veteran and former J.P. Morgan vice president, is challenging Santos on the GOP side.
I asked Malamed what makes him stand out.
“I have a track record and history of defeating extreme MAGA Republicans across the country,” he said, touting his portfolio of work with The Next 50, including its focus on swing races.
Malamed told The Up and Up that The Next 50 had an 80% success rate in 2022. 64% of The Next 50’s candidates have assumed positions of leadership within respective stages and/or legislative bodies. The group’s supported leaders up and down the ballot including Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, and North Carolina Rep. Jeff Jackson.
Asked specifically what tactics he’ll take from his time with The Next 50, Malamed said he plans to further develop a donor network in his home district.
He also emphasized his work in the public education sector via Student Voice and said education access is a priority of his campaign — as well as healthcare, the cost of living, and gun safety.
“I’ve made a commitment to engaging and organizing the next generation in a way nobody running for this seat has done before,” Malamed said.
When it comes to the next generation, it’s clear there’s energy from young people in New York’s 3rd congressional district to oust the sitting Congressman. Earlier this year, I wrote about Students Against Santos, the youth coalition committed to seeing Santos removed from office, for Teen Vogue.
Malamed said he’s looking to build a relationship with groups like Students Against Santos and hopes that “they’ll find energy in what this campaign could look like and be.”
“But I’m going to have to earn that support,” he said.
Malamed added that he plans on having a robust online presence and a “transparent campaign” to shed light on what it’s like to run as a young candidate. “I want to open up the doors of what running a campaign is like,” he said.