Robert Zimmerman works phones for Quinn bid

Long Islander Robert Zimmerman, a major political fundraiser Long Islander Robert Zimmerman, a major political fundraiser and Democratic National Committee member, is working the phones for New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her mayoral quest. Photo Credit: David Pokress

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Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997, initially as a staff writer for the New ...

Long IslanderRobert Zimmerman, a major political fundraiser and Democratic National Committee member, is working the phones this season for New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her mayoral quest.

Neither might have guessed it when they first met 13 years ago.

At the time, the Al Gore presidential campaign sent Quinn, a rookie council member, as surrogate to a meeting of the Great Neck Democratic Club, where she and a Bill Bradley surrogate competed for the endorsement. Zimmerman, who didn't know Quinn, said he'd been hoping instead that a Congress member or a U.S. senator would show up.

"She walked in, and although she did not know a soul in the room, she totally owned that moment. She was so compelling, so real and so passionate in her message, you could watch people's mouths drop open," Zimmerman raves in retrospect. The club, in which he was involved, unexpectedly backed Gore, he said.

Quinn recalls: "Because I grew up on Long Island, they dispatched me to be the Gore surrogate, and I remember there was a pretty decent sized snowstorm. . . . We were fast friends after that." Zimmerman, a Great Neck-based advertising executive, was a guest at her wedding to Kim Catullo. Quinn said Zimmerman "has been gracious enough to introduce me to people he interacts with professionally and politically who have been helpful with generating ideas and other support."

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DIFFERENT STROKES: The Working Families Party has sent mailers around the Nassau district of state Sen. Jack M. Martins (R-Mineola) accusing him of "pay to play" -- for collecting contributions from catering companies with a direct financial stake in a bill he's pushing.

Yet the party also recently endorsed, for county executive, Democrat Thomas Suozzi -- who's a lawyer for the caterers and promotes the same Martins bill that the WFP claims in its mailings would let big catering firms "pocket the tips that their waiters and waitresses earned."

How does the party reconcile this rhetoric -- presented in support of public campaign financing -- with its Suozzi endorsement? Lisa Tyson, a longtime WFP leader on Long Island, says: "We don't agree with any candidate 100 percent of the time, but there's no question that Tom Suozzi is the best candidate to make Nassau County work for working families."

Others in the party added that the catering bill isn't a county issue. Both Martins and Suozzi, meanwhile, insist the measure would shield caterers from unjust back-wage claims.

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