NEW YORK (AP) — US Representative Lee Zeldinthe Republican candidate for New York governor, was attacked by a man who apparently tried to stab him at an event in the state on Thursday, but the congressman escaped serious injury.
“I’m fine,” Zeldin said in a statement. “Luckily I was able to grab his wrist and hold him back for a while until others attacked him.”
Zeldin’s campaign said the attacker was taken into custody and the congressman continued his speech. In November, he challenges the incumbent Democratic government Kathy Hochul.
The attacker climbed onto a low podium where the congressman spoke to a crowd of dozens outside Rochester, flanked by bales of hay and American flags. A video posted on Twitter shows the two falling to the ground as other people try to intervene.
Among those who helped subdue the attacker was Zeldin’s running mate, former New York Police Department Deputy Superintendent Alison Esposito, GOP chairman Nick Langworthy said.
Langworthy told The Associated Press that he had no details about the attacker or his weapon, but had exchanged text messages with Zeldin afterwards while the congressman spoke to police.
“He’s okay. He’s not seriously injured. It’s just a chaotic scene there,” Langworthy said. He said Zeldin had “just a minor scratch,” but it wasn’t what anyone would consider an injury.
In a statement, Hochul condemned the attack, saying she was “relieved to learn that Congresswoman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody.”
Deputy Brendan Hurley, the spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, made a statement to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that said the office “is aware of an incident during Governor-candidate Zeldin’s speech tonight. A suspect is in custody and Major Crimes is investigating.”
Messages seeking information from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office were not returned immediately, and telephone messages were left with the county emergency call.
Langworthy called on Hochul to provide a security detail for Zeldin to protect him on the campaign trail.
“This could have ended much worse. This really could have ended in a terrible way tonight and this is unacceptable,” he said.
Hochul’s press secretary Avi Small referred questions about providing Zeldin with a security detail to New York State Police.
Zeldin, an army reserve lieutenant colonel who has represented East Long Island in Congress since 2015, is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and was among the Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
He has focused his campaign on fighting crime, but faces an uphill battle against Hochul. He will have to convince both independent voters — who outnumber Republicans in the state — and Democrats to win the general election.
Democrats are expected to focus on Zeldin’s vocal defense of Trump during both his impeachment and his objection to the election results.