Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s campaign hesitated to immediately condemn two of his supporters brandishing signs inscribed with sexist slurs directed at Governor Kathy Hochul at a Bronx get-out-the-vote rally for the Democratic incumbent Saturday.
At the rally, hosted by Bronx Democratic Party leaders like state Senator Jamal Bailey, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz and his son City Council Member Eric Dinowitz, a group of Zeldin supporters repeatedly attempted to interrupt the proceedings by shouting over the speakers with a megaphone, according to Bronx district leader John Doyle and video shared with amNewYork Metro.
Doyle retweeted the video, shot by rally-goer Christopher Leon Johnson Saturday, where some of the comments can be heard.
— John Doyle (@JohnDoyle4NYC) October 29, 2022
But two of the Long Island Congress Member’s apparent supporters took things a step further — hoisting signs with sexist language directed at Hochul, including one that read “Ho-chul you c*nt,” and another had a fake tombstone with number 666 written several times on it which said “unelected New York Governor Kathy Hochul November 8th 2022 bye bye b*tch.”
When amNewYork Metro contacted the Zeldin campaign for comment about the profane display, a campaign spokesperson didn’t explicitly condemn the signs or the sexist language at first.
Katie Vincentz said “people” should focus their efforts on Hochul’s record on the issues – not making it clear which people she was referring to.
“Considering Kathy Hochul’s abysmal record on the issues that matter most to New Yorkers – crime, corruption and cost of living – we encourage people to focus on the issues,” Vincentz said.
After amNewYork Metro followed up on that statement, Vincentz clarified she meant Zeldin’s supporters should be attacking Hochul on the issues instead of “holding those signs or saying that.”
“To be clear, I’m saying people should not be holding those signs or saying that, and that they should instead focus on the issues,” she said. “That’s a pretty clear condemnation.”
Zeldin’s campaign also made it clear that his supporters at the Hochul rally aren’t affiliated with their official operation. The candidate himself spent Saturday attending rallies in Queens and Long Island, the latter of which included Florida Governor (and rumored 2024 presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis.
The incident comes as early-voting commenced across the state Saturday and the race enters its final week before the Nov. 8 election. Close to 50,000 early votes were cast across the five boroughs on Oct. 29, according to the New York City Board of Elections, about half of the early vote on the first day of the November 2020 general election cycle.
Doyle said at first he didn’t make much of the Zeldin supporters, as counter-protesters are a common sight at most campaign rallies. But that as the event went on, the group became increasingly more antagonistic towards the rally-goers and the governor.
“They just got more and more aggressive, and then were standing over us and just started screaming all sorts of crazy crap,” Doyle said. “They [had] really nasty signs directed at the governor. They were screaming about all sorts of things. One person was going on about transgender people. Another person was going on about abortion. Another person on crime. Another person was just saying misogynistic things, like Hochul’s a ‘c*nt.’”
Council Member Dinowitz, who was also in attendance, charged that the language used by Zeldin’s supporters Saturday spoke more broadly to the Republican Party’s values.
“If I’m Lee Zeldin and my supporters are using that language, I’m being buoyed by dangerous and antagonistic folks in my party, what does that tell you about the way that Republicans are going to govern?” Dinowitz said. “It tells you everything you need to know.”
Dinowitz added that the incident was reminiscent of another outside his father’s district office in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx nearly a year ago, where a couple failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s supporters held signs bearing anti-Semitic imagery including swastikas.
That was an incident Republicans mostly stayed silent on, he added.
“They’re very comfortable having anti-democratic, anti-Semitic and anti-science people supporting them and they say nothing,” Dinowitz said. “And in many cases [they] vocally support those elements.”