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Lee Zeldin, Perry Gershon exchange verbal blows over campaign signs

Rep. Lee Zeldin and his Democratic challenger Perry

Rep. Lee Zeldin and his Democratic challenger Perry Gershon speak during a candidate forum at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead on Oct. 15. Credit: Composite: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The campaigns of GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin and his Democratic challenger Perry Gershon exchanged verbal blows on Sunday over hateful messages scrawled on campaign signs.

Detectives from Suffolk County police's Hate Crimes Unit on Sunday began investigating what a police statement described as graffiti on one of Gershon's signs in Stony Brook. 

Gershon campaign spokesman Tim Minton said a swastika was spray-painted on the sign on Nicholls Road and discovered on Sunday afternoon by a supporter, who reported it to the campaign. And last Monday, dozens of Gershon signs appeared around Patchogue spray-painted with the phrases "gay lover" and "baby killer," which prompted increased police patrols. 

Both Zeldin and Gershon are Jewish.  

Gershon is looking to unseat Zeldin, who is in his  second term representing New York's 1st Congressional District, in Tuesday's midterm elections. 

Zeldin campaign spokesman Chris Boyle said in a statement Sunday that Zeldin signs are frequently "torn down, stolen and vandalized."

When asked if the theft and vandalism had been reported to police, Boyle said the campaign was "not going to spend all day every day calling 911. ... We are too busy talking to voters about actual issues that affect their lives." 

Boyle added: "I wouldn't even be surprised if they desperately did this to their own signs to gain sympathy votes for their flailing campaign. These shenanigans must end."

Gershon said of the accusation: "I think he's trying to incite, as opposed to calm, and it's inappropriate and it's disgusting for a fellow Jew to do that. " 

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