Saturday, July 23, 2022


Imagine you're Lee Zeldin. You're a Trumpist Republican running for governor in New York State, where members of your party have won statewide races, but not for many years -- the last GOP governor left office in 2006. You cling to hope because it could be a Republican wave year, because your opponent has never won a statewide race on her own (Kathy Hochul was Andrew Cuomo's lieutenant governor and was elevated to the governorship when he resigned), and because you're running on "law and order" at a time when there are increases in crime, and when some DAs -- whom you may be empowered to fire if you're elected -- support liberalized bail laws. Your best-known campaign promise is to fire one such DA, Manhattan's Alvin Bragg.

And yet polls show that you're trailing by 18 points. You're not getting much media attention. It looks as if you're about to be another Republican loser in New York.

And then, as if by magic, an event occurs at one of your campaign stops that makes the national news, in a way that precisely tracks with your campaign's narrative on crime. Fox News reported yesterday:

A man who allegedly attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., with a sharp object at a campaign stop in Perinton, New York, Thursday evening was charged with a felony and released from custody within hours of his arrest, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said.

The suspect, identified as David G. Jakubonis, 43 of Fairport, N.Y., was charged with attempted assault in the second degree.

He was arraigned in Perinton Town Court and released on his own recognizance, the sheriff’s department said.

Zeldin, who is the Republican candidate for governor in New York, predicted the alleged attacker would be released.
Early reports said it was a "knife attack," and some overheated right-wing sites referred to the assault as an attempted assassination. This became a massive story in the right-wing media.

But we quickly learned that this wasn't a deadly weapon:

And now we learn this:
In the case of Mr. Jakubonis, the Monroe County district attorney could have chosen to charge him with a violent felony, which would have qualified the case for potential bail, and pushed to keep him behind bars.

A spokeswoman for Sandra Doorley, the district attorney, declined to comment on whether bail would have been sought in a similar case under the law before 2020. The spokeswoman also said that Ms. Doorley, who is a co-chair of Mr. Zeldin’s campaign, would recuse herself from the case.
So Zeldin's campaign co-chair exercised the option to undercharge Jakubonis. This is not required under the bail law. But that will never be mentioned in the right-wing media.

Now I'm going to go a step further. I think it was a fake attack, staged by the campaign.

Watch the original video.

Jakubonis approaches Zeldin starting at 0:42, but he doesn't seem angry or purposeful at all. It's as if the campaign told him to approach, and it never occurred to him to do any acting. He didn't lean into the assault. He just walked up to Zeldin as if he were walking across his living room.

We know Jakubonis is an Iraq veteran with a history of problem drinking. We know that his LinkedIn page includes the message "Hire me." Is it so hard to believe that the Zeldin campaign would pay this guy a few bucks to stage an attack, promising that he wouldn't face any real punishment? (That was the whole point of the exercise!) And now the campaign has a message it can use all the way to November.

Zeldin recently lost his bid to appear on the Independence Party line as well as the Republican line when his ballot petitions were successfully challenged and found to have 13,000 invalid signatures, most of them apparently photocopied. And, of course, he voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. So I don't put anything past him.

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