Robert Zimmerman is running to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen...

Robert Zimmerman is running to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in the 3rd Congressional District.   Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

How long after communications executive Robert Zimmerman announced his candidacy for Congress this week would it take for an endorsement to come from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli?

Not too long. The two have known each other for almost 50 years, and have been battling side-by-side in electoral politics since day one.

"We met working on a campaign, the reelection campaign of Rep. Lester Wolff," Zimmerman told The Point Thursday, guessing it was in 1971. Wolff, who lived in Syosset, served 13 terms in the House from 1965 through 1981.

Both Zimmerman and DiNapoli are 67, though DiNapoli is a few months older, and both have been involved in politics for five decades.

But in political history, the two are most closely linked by DiNapoli’s brutal 2001 Democratic primary against another Long Islander whose political ambition is a headline this year: Tom Suozzi.

That 2001 race has colored politics on Long Island ever since, with the alliances and enmity it created often persisting. Zimmerman has been a persistent and outspoken critic of Suozzi’s service in the House, and had floated the idea of challenging him before.

"Robert is someone who has had a passion for government and politics, and has been a great spokesperson nationally for the Democratic Party and its positions," DiNapoli told The Point Thursday. "He’s in it to serve the people and I think he’d be a great advocate for the district."

The seat Zimmerman seeks is opening up because Suozzi is seeking the governorship. And it surprised no one when, in October, DiNapoli endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul for that job.