Independent perennial candidate Mike Zumbluskas is once again challenging incumbent State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Upper East Side) as a Republican.
The son of an Air Force cop, Zumbluskas was born on Hempstead’s Mitchell Airforce Base. Growing up, he traveled extensively with his family, beginning kindergarten in Okinawa, Japan and graduating high school in Aviano, Italy with time at schools in inner city Denver.
From a young age, he took an interest in politics. “My first real political discussion was when I was eight years old with my Aunt Thelma, who was my grandmother on my father’s side’s sister,” he said. “We were arguing over the Humphrey-Nixon race. I liked Humphrey at the time, and after about ten, fifteen minutes, she threw up her hands and said `Why am I arguing with this eight year old?’”
His lifelong passion would lead to volunteer work for City Council races, the Metropolitan Republican Club, and the 1992 presidential campaign of H. Ross Perot.
“I didn’t like the direction this country was going in,” said Zumbluskas of his support for Perot. “I saw our national debt was too high. Even back then, I had problems with all our factories and everything else going to China, and I just didn’t like a lot of the stuff going on from the left or the right.”
His dissatisfaction with both major parties heavily motivates his own stances.
“I want practical government, not ideological,” said Zumbluskas. “I don’t care if your ideas come from the right or the left. If I put a policy up there and it doesn’t work, we either tweak it or scrap it. I have no problem with that.”
He contrasted this approach to that of most New York lawmakers, who he feels are driven more by ideology when it comes to oversight of policies.
“We have close to a $30 billion education budget,” he said. “We cut it by $8 billion. I think it was like 28 last year, and they only have two weeks of oversight on the education budget. How can you get to the bottom of what’s going on if you’re only holding two weeks of hearings on the education budget or any budget for that example?”
Other ideas Zumbluskas has proposed include “work probation” as an alternative to cash bail reform for low-level offenders, and “freedom of thought” legislation that would prevent people from being fired as a result of “cancel culture”.
In terms of being able to win the seat from Krueger, Zumbluskas shared his ability to hold her accountable in his prior challenges against her.
“When I ran against her in 2014, she did not pass one piece of legislation. When I brought that up, people started asking questions,” he said. “In 2016, at the beginning of the year when she knew I was running against her again, she finally passed two pieces of legislation that were basically nothing. She claimed it was because she was in the minority, but that’s not an excuse if you can work with people. And like I said, I can work with Democrats and Republicans.”