PERINTON, N.Y. (WROC) — Congressman Lee Zeldin was attacked at a campaign event Thursday night. Zeldin is the Republican candidate for governor in New York State.
Witnesses say Zeldin, 42, was giving a speech about bail reform at a VFW in Perinton, New York, when a man — reportedly an Iraq War veteran under the influence of alcohol — stumbled through the crowd. He then proceeded to climb on the stage and pulled out a knife.
American Veterans National Director Joe Chenelly reportedly stopped the alleged attacker from lunging at Zeldin. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said the man was taken into custody. Those on the scene were able to zip-tie him and get the weapon away before he was taken into custody by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
A witness who was with Zeldin after the attack said Zeldin was not hurt, and took the stage again when it was over.
Chenelly said he vows 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, 42, has represented New York’s 1st District since 2015. The representative, along with his lieutenant governor candidate Alison Esposito, is currently campaigning for November’s race. Zeldin’s campaign bills itself on a referendum on several issues in the state and advertises itself with the tagline, “Save Our State.”
Zeldin will face incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul in this year’s gubernatorial election. Zeldin is a vocal critic of Hochul, who he recently called “a Pez dispenser of corruption.” Zeldin highlights his efforts to end COVID-19 safety mandates and opposing gun law reform as achievements during his time as representative.
The Zeldin for New York campaign said Thursday: ““Congressman Zeldin, Alison Esposito, and all members of Team Zeldin are safe following tonight’s attack. 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.”
Zeldin also made a statement expressing his gratitude for the people who helped defend him during the incident, while saying, “This suspect will likely be right back out on the street immediately.”