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Zimmerman leaving as SBOANJ lobbyist

January 19, 2009

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Leon Zimmerman, a July 2009 inductee into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame Communicators Corner, is leaving his position as legislative lobbyist for the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey after more than 35 years of service.

Zimmerman said that he will continue operating the lobbying firm he launched in 1973 after working for the late Governor William Cahill, but take on new projects and clients that he has not had time to do previously.  He emphasized that he will continue his enthusiastic involvement in the Standardbred industry, including ownership of racehorses that he has done for the last three decades.

“Leon Zimmerman has been a respected and loyal member of our consulting staff for more than three decades,” said SBOANJ president Tom Luchento.  “I’ve worked closely with Leon these last few years and have a great deal of respect for his professionalism and devotion to harness racing.  We all wish him the best as he pursues other ventures.”

Hired as a lobbyist for the SBOANJ by eventual Hall of Famer Anthony Abbatiello, Zimmerman has been a leading spokesman for efforts to improve the standardbred racing and breeding industry in New Jersey.  In his first task, and one of his most noteworthy, he brought full-scale communications to professional lobbying with news releases, speeches and legislative testimony that helped lead to the creation of the Meadowlands Racetrack.

He served 25 years as editor of the SBOA’s New Jersey Standardbred Magazine and newsletter, The Pacesetter.  He also has been the public relations and advertising consultant to the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 25 years.

His communication efforts as a lobbyist have been innovative and pioneering, personally persuading then Governor Christine Whitman to drive one of his horses at a local training farm and to drive in a series of exhibition races that received network television coverage.  The late fashion designer and occasional harness driver Oleg Cassini designed her driving colors and participated in a press conference for the first event.

Zimmerman then convinced dozens of state legislators to participate in similar exhibition charity races, practicing many mornings with Standardbred trainers.

On the State Capitol scene in Trenton for 42 years, Zimmerman is one of the deans of the lobbying corps and considered by State officials as a major voice of horse racing.  As a result, many laws helping the industry have been enacted, including creation of the Meadowlands, getting the State to give up its takeout share of the pari-mutuel handle, reducing the sales tax on claimed horses and allowing for off-track wagering and telephone account systems. (SBOANJ)


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