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GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin attacked at campaign event, but was not injured

Lee Zeldin
FILE - U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks to delegates and assembled party officials at the 2022 NYGOP Convention on March 1, 2022, in Garden City, N.Y. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, was attacked on Thursday, July 21, 2022 by man with knife at an upstate event but was uninjured, his campaign says.(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(AP & WXXI News) U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, was attacked by a man with a knife at an event Thursday night in Fairport but was uninjured, his campaign said.

Zeldin was giving a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 8495 in Fairport when a man climbed onstage and appeared to begin wrestling with the congressman, said Katie Vincentz, a spokesperson for Zeldin's campaign.

"Thanks to the swift action of several brave eventgoers, the perpetrator was subdued," New York GOP Chair Nick Langworthy said in a statement.

A video of the event posted on Twitter showed the man appearing to grab Zeldin’s arm before the two fall to the ground as other people try to intervene.

Zeldin’s campaign said the attacker was taken into custody and the congressman continued his speech. He is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul this November.

Langworthy told The Associated Press that he didn't have any details on the attacker or his weapon but exchanged text messages with Zeldin afterward while the congressman was speaking to police.

“He is fine. He’s not seriously injured. It’s just a chaotic scene there,” Langworthy said.

Langworthy said Zeldin had “just a little scrape” but it wasn't what anyone would consider an injury. The chair said he was told that Zeldin’s running mate, former New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Alison Esposito, was there and among those who helped to subdue the man.

Zeldin issued this statement late Thursday night: "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.

"I’m ok, and Alison Esposito, and all other attendees are safe. The attacker is in custody. Grateful for the attendees who stepped up quickly to assist and the law enforcement officers who quickly responded. I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make New York safe again. This suspect will likely be right back out on the street immediately."

The Monroe County Sheriff's office released a statement early Friday morning saying that when the suspect approached Zeldin he had a weapon in his hand, swung it towards Zeldin's neck and told him, " You're done." And they say that members of the audience and Zeldin's campaign restrained the man until deputies arrived and took him into custody. No injuries were reported.

The suspect is identified as 43-year-old David Jakubonis of Fairport. He is charged with Attempted Assault in the 2nd Degree (a felony). Jakubonis was arraigned in Perinton Town Court and released on his own recognizance.

Langworthy is calling on Hochul to issue a security detail for Zeldin to protect him on the campaign trail.

“This could have gone a lot worse. This could have really ended in a horrible way tonight and this is unacceptable,” he said.

Hochul, in a statement, condemned the attack and said she was “relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody.”

Zeldin, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who has represented eastern 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.