ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A man is in custody Thursday night after attacking U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, at a campaign event in Fairport, New York, officials said.
Zeldin’s campaign said a man tried to stab Zeldin but the Congressman from Long Island is safe and returned to the stage to speak. The event in Fairport was billed as his first stop on a four-day “Unite to Fire Hochul” bus tour.
Video posted online showed a brief but potentially dangerous encounter during his speech.
Zeldin had been on a small stage in front of supporters railing against Hochul’s COVID-19 response and vaccine mandates. He started comparing New York to other states, such as Texas and Florida, saying residents there are “feeling safer there, they’re living life freer,” when a man in gray T-shirt walked on the stage and grabbed Zeldin by the arm, according to a video posted on Facebook.
Zeldin appeared to resist but the man pulled him down to the stage floor, the video shows. Others quickly helped free the congressman and help him back to his feet.
The campaign said Zeldin “grabbed the attacker’s wrist to stop him” until others took the attacker to the ground.
Law enforcement officials did not identify the attacker or release many details of the arrest but said more information will be released when it becomes available.
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“The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is aware of an incident at the speech of gubernatorial candidate Zeldin this evening. A suspect is in custody and Major Crimes is investigating,” Deputy Brendan Hurley, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.
Zeldin’s campaign used the episode to reinforce his argument that New York is increasingly unsafe under Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“Far more must be done to make New York safe again. This is very much getting out of hand in this state,” Katie Vincentz, a spokesperson for Zeldin, said in a statement. “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.”
Hochul’s campaign referred to a statement she made on Twitter after the attack: “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.”