Dozens of Perry Gershon campaign signs spray-painted with "baby killer" and "gay lover" were put up Monday morning around Patchogue, prompting Suffolk County Police to increase patrols at an LGBT community center in Bay Shore "out of an abundance of caution."
Gershon, a Democrat running for the 1st Congressional District seat in Suffolk County against Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), called for "toning down incivility."
"Hate mongering has no place in America, especially in political campaigns," he said in a statement. "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."
Zeldin campaign spokesman Chris Boyle said, "We have no idea who did this, but they should stop immediately."
Boyle said the Zeldin campaign also has had some of its signs "defaced and stolen from private property."
"Political violence and hate have no place in our political discourse," Boyle said.
David Kilmnick, president of the Bay Shore-based advocacy group LGBT Network, said police should probe the vandalism to Gershon's signs as possible hate crimes.
"it is unconscionable that these signs displaying hate toward the LGBT community would appear," Kilmnick said.
Suffolk County police said the department's Hate Crimes Unit was interviewing Gershon about the vandalism.
"Out of an abundance of caution, after speaking with David Kilmnick . . . the department has agreed to enhance patrols at LGBT’s community center in Bay Shore," the department said in a statement.
Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement, “We stand with the LGBTQ community, and will work with the Suffolk County Police Department in its investigation.”
Gershon campaign spokeswoman Alexandra Dakich said as many as 50 spray-painted campaign signs were found along Sunrise Highway and South Country Road in Patchogue. Explicit bumper stickers also were attached to Gershon campaign signs on Nicolls Road in Holbrook and Stony Brook, Dakich said.
Boyle, Zeldin's spokesman, said anti-Zeldin signs have been popping up around the 1st Congressional District, "spreading lies about Congressman Zeldin’s positions."
"We literally have thousands of other examples if you want more outrageous content put out by Gershon’s supporters on signs, social media and elsewhere," said Boyle. "Gershon has condemned none of it."
Gershon in recent debates has called on all sides to increase civility.
In July, Suffolk police arrested Martin Astrof of Nesconset, after they said he threatened to kill supporters of Zeldin and Trump at Zeldin's re-election headquarters in Nesconset, and nearly hit a campaign worker with his vehicle as he drove off. Astrof, 75, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 30, according to the state court's website.
In August, Suffolk police investigated a graffiti incident at the Mattituck home of "Top Chef” producer and restaurateur Tom Colicchio, who had Gershon lawn signs. Police described political and religious symbols sprayed on the home’s mailbox, lawn and driveway.