Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, was attacked by a deranged man with a knife or blade during a campaign stop near Rochester, Thursday evening.
Zeldin was giving a speech about bail reform at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Fairport, when a man jumped on stage and wrestled the candidate to the ground. The assailant pulled out a blade during the struggle, according to WROC-TV.
This is absolutely insane and everything that is wrong with politics. Thank god @leezeldin is alright. The individual should be charged to the fullest extent of the law — and this must be condemned loudly and publicly by @GovKathyHochul and every elected official in NY. pic.twitter.com/3DQ2jCh3MX
— Mike Lawler (@lawler4ny) July 22, 2022
The suspect—a drunk Iraq War veteran—was stopped by AMVETS national director Joe Chennelly, a candidate for a state assembly seat, WROC reported. Bystanders got the knife away from the assailant, and restrained him with zip-ties pulled from campaign posters. He was taken into custody by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
WATCH: Lee Zeldin's attacker cried while being detained by civilians, and his pants fell down as he was being arrested by police. pic.twitter.com/E5DMQn7OaL
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) July 22, 2022
Chenelly said he would try to get the man in custody the help he needs.
“When he said he served in Iraq, I got down hands on my knees and said ‘you know, we’re going to get through whatever you’ve done here tonight’ and told him you’re going to get better and focus on that and said you can contact me after this thing is done, Chenelly said. “We’ll help you find the services you need. I was told not the engage with him right now. I think it’s very important we obviously have a mental health crisis nationwide— not just with our veterans but we especially have it with our veterans.”
Zeldin was not hurt, and took the stage again when it was over.
His campaign put out the following statement Thursday night:
“Congressman Zeldin, Alison Esposito, and all members of Team Zeldin are safe following tonight’s attack,” Zeldin campaign spokesperson Katie Vincentz said in a statement issued Thursday night. “Far more must be done to make New York safe again. This is very much getting out of hand in this state. 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. This needs to stop! Thankfully, we still have exceptional men and women in law enforcement answering the call to protect our streets.”
Later Thursday night, the candidate put out a statement thanking his supporters.
“Thank you to everyone who reached out following tonight’s attack in Fairport. Someone tried to stab me on stage during this evening’s rally, but fortunately, I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him,” the congressman tweeted.
Thank you to everyone who reached out following tonight’s attack in Fairport. Someone tried to stab me on stage during this evening’s rally, but fortunately, I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him.
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) July 22, 2022
Zeldin will face Governor Kathy Hochul, the Democratic incumbent, this November.
Thursday morning, Hochul fired off an email to her supporters inaccurately describing “Big Lie Lee” and his entourage as “far right extremists” who were kicking off a “MAGA Republican” bus tour across the state to “peddle dangerous lies, misinformation, and his far-right agenda.”
Conservative New Yorker Joel Fischer posted the Hochul’s “media advisory” onto twitter.
Her campaign website uses the same inflammatory eliminationist language, describing Zeldin as an “anti-abortion extremist” on the “extreme fringes of the party,” and in league with “insurrectionists.”
Hochul also smeared the Iraq War vet as a dangerous extremist in a campaign ad:
Meet Lee Zeldin, the far-right extremist that the Republicans just nominated for governor. Despite what he might try to sell you, the facts speak for themselves: he is dangerous for New York. pic.twitter.com/Ta4q4xaVwc
— Kathy Hochul (@KathyHochul) June 29, 2022
“My team has informed me about the incident at Lee Zeldin’s campaign event tonight,” Hochul tweeted Thursday night. “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.”
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.
— Kathy Hochul (@KathyHochul) July 22, 2022
The suspect, identified as David G. Jakubonis, 43 of Fairport, N.Y., has already been released from custody, Fox News reported.
Jakubonis was charged with attempted assault in the second degree, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said.
Zeldin had predicted in a tweet early Friday that his assailant would be released quickly.
“His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were ‘you’re done’, but several attendees, including @EspositoforNY, quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy,” he tweeted. “Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes. The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”
His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were “you’re done”, but several attendees, including @EspositoforNY, quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy.
Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes.
The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws. pic.twitter.com/wZEyIyrjFe
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) July 22, 2022