Perry Gershon, the Democratic candidate running to represent the First Congressional District, on Sunday said one of his campaign signs had been vandalized with a spray-painted swastika — the latest in a string of Mr. Gershon’s signs marred with graffiti, his camp said.
The Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit said Monday it is investigating a sign vandalized in such a way, but has not confirmed which candidate’s sign was involved. An SCPD spokesperson said the sign, on Nicolls Road in Stony Brook — not far from Mr. Gershon’s campaign headquarters in East Setauket — was reported to police November 4 at 3:30 p.m.
“When we see expressions of hate like what I just saw on Nicolls Road near Route 347, I am both saddened and angry,” Mr. Gershon said in a statement Sunday. “I am Jewish and this behavior is not acceptable in America. … As the president complains that the Pittsburgh shooting was a distraction from his Republican issues, I must re-state the importance of stopping the hate, toning down the rhetoric, properly stamping out anti-Semitism and other expressions of hate and violence. We must come back together as one America.”
The swastika, Mr. Gershon’s campaign representative has said, is one of more than 50 of his signs to be vandalized. Other signs have been marked “baby killer” and “gay lover” above and below the candidate’s name, his campaign reported on October 30.
“Hate mongering has no place in America, especially in political campaigns,” Mr. Gershon said in a statement on October 30. “The conversation with voters should be about ideas for improving their lives. I am proud to stand with women in fighting for the right to let them choose what is best for their own bodies, and I am proud to stand with the LGBTQ community in fighting for equality.”
The SCPD said it did not receive a complaint regarding a previous vandalism spree, but on October 30 increased patrols at a Bay Shore center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, and released the following statement, also not naming the candidate involved: “…the department takes the matter seriously and Hate Crimes Unit detectives are in the process of reaching out to the candidate whose signs were damaged. Out of an abundance of caution, after speaking with David Kilmnick, president/chief executive officer of the LGBT Network, the department has agreed to enhance patrols at LGBT’s community center in Bay Shore.”
Mr. Gershon also encouraged his opponent, incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin, “to join me in condemning hate-based violence, intolerance and related vandalism, wherever it occurs, and whomever perpetrates it.”
Mr. Zeldin’s campaign communication director, Chris Boyle, responded to Mr. Gershon’s claims that a hate crime had occurred by pointing out Mr. Zeldin’s own signs had been “torn down, stolen and vandalized for the last couple months. Other signs are also popping up around the district spreading lies about Congressman Zeldin’s positions.”
“Considering some of the people involved in the Gershon campaign and their recent shocking campaign tactics with vile, disgusting wire coat hanger mailers, disgraceful attacks on Congressman Zeldin’s amazing service to our military and veterans and generally lying more than they tell the truth,” Mr. Boyle continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they desperately did this to their own signs to gain sympathy votes for their flailing campaign. These shenanigans must end.”
Both candidates are Jewish and have claimed to be the targets of online attacks as well as the vandalism of their signs.