The campaign manager for Democrat Tedra Cobb, who is running to unseat Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), left the campaign on Tuesday in the wake of a video where Cobb says she won’t publicly state what she actually believes about banning certain guns.
Mike Szustak, who has been running Cobb’s campaign since April, told the Watertown Daily Times that he was no longer working on the campaign. It is not clear if he quit or if he was fired.
The move comes in the aftermath of a Washington Free Beacon report on a video showing Cobb telling a group of teen supporters that she could not publicly state her desire for a ban on certain rifles for fear that her view is unpopular and could cost her the election.
“When I was at this thing today, it was the first table I was at, a woman said, ‘How do you feel about assault rifles?’ And I said they should be banned,” Cobb said in the video. “And I said, you know, people were getting up to go, to go get their lunch because it was a buffet, and I just said to her, I want you to know Cindy, I cannot say that.”
Cobb’s campaign website includes a page detailing her support for various gun-control measures but does not include any provision advocating for the ban of any firearms. Cobb went on to say that she had been advised by representatives of the gun-control group Moms Demand Action not to advocate for gun bans.
“And she said, ‘Well, I want you to’ and I said, ‘I won’t win,'” Cobb said. “I said Moms Demand [Action] says, and Tricia Pleau said, ‘Do not say that you want an assault rifle ban because you will not win.'”
Tricia Pleau is a member of the New York chapter of the group.
Leonardo Alcivar, Rep. Stefanik’s campaign manager, claimed that the emergence of the video caused Szustak to create a public scene on an Amtrak train. In a tweet with the hashtag #EpicAcelaMeltdown, Alcivar said Szustak was screaming about the video for an hour and a half.
“Tell your #NY21 operatives to not have public meltdowns screaming their heads off in Acela Cafe Car,” Alcivar tweeted. “@TedraCobb’s campaign manager in shorts & flip-flops drinking a beer & melting down screaming for 90-mins in full damage control!”
Szustak told the Daily Times that he did ride Acela but did not have a “meltdown” as Alcivar described. “Lenny is a liar,” he told the paper.
Neither the Cobb campaign nor Szustak responded to requests for comment.