Zeldin attacked during upstate campaign stop for governor

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin was attacked by a man with a knife during an upstate campaign stop for governor Thursday evening.

Zeldin, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in November, was speaking at a VFW in Fairport near Rochester to kick off a four-day “Unite to Fire Hochul” Bus Tour when a man climbed on stage and attempted to stab him, according to a statement by the Zeldin campaign. He was not injured.

A video obtained by Spectrum News shows several moments of chaos as members of the crowd and those onstage realized he was armed.

According to the campaign, Zeldin grabbed the attacker’s wrist to stop him and several others assisted in taking the man to the ground. WHEC-TV reported that members of the audience disarmed and apprehended the attacker with zip-ties pulled from campaign posters.

Law enforcement took the attacker into custody, and Zeldin finished speaking.

Zeldin, his running mate for lieutenant governor Alison Esposito and all of the team members are safe, according to spokesperson Katie Vincentz.

“Unfortunately, Congressman Zeldin is just the latest New Yorker whose life has been affected by the out of control crime and violence in New York,” Vincentz said in a statement. “This needs to stop! Thankfully, we still have exceptional men and women in law enforcement answering the call to protect our streets.”

Shortly after the news broke, Hochul put out a statement on Twitter condemning the incident.

“My team has informed me about the incident at Lee Zeldin's campaign event tonight. Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody. I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible — it has no place in New York,” the statement read.

State GOP party chair Nick Langworthy criticized Hochul and the state Democratic Committee for the response. Just hours earlier, her campaign put out a statement mirroring Zeldin’s announcement of his statewide tour, but announcing each stop with its criticisms of his campaign. It didn't say where the stops were.

“On Thursday, July 21, 2022, “Big Lie” Lee and his entourage of extremists kick off the statewide ‘MAGA Republican' Bus Tour, which will make stops across the state peddling dangerous lies, misinformation, and his far-right agenda. At stops during the tour, Zeldin will be joined by top anti-abortion advocates, NRA enthusiasts, and a cast of extremist groups,” it read.

RSVP to hear about Zeldin’s “Election Integrity Task Force,” and his recent election fraud scandal in which his campaign photocopied over 11,000 duplicate petition signatures,” read one portion of the mocked schedule.

Langworthy charged that the messaging “fanned the flames.”

“Congressman Zeldin and all of the attendees are safe, but this could have ended much worse,” he said in a statement. “It’s not a coincidence that just hours earlier, Kathy Hochul fanned the flames of hate by directing her supporters to his rally schedule. This is unacceptable conduct for anyone, let alone a sitting governor. It’s not enough to condemn the attack, she must apologize and tone down her hateful rhetoric immediately.”

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