A New York Democratic congressional candidate said he was inspired to run for a House seat because of similarities he saw between the political ascents of President Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler.
Perry Gershon, a Long Island businessman challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, made the comparison at a Democratic primary rally in East Marion in February. A video of Gershon’s comments was posted on Facebook by Democratic advocacy group Southold Town Democrats.
In the video, Gershon said he visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., during the 2016 presidential election when he realized Trump could be just as dangerous as Hitler.
"I was struck by the parallels between the rise of Donald Trump today and the rise of Hitler back then," Gershon said. "And I just said to myself that we have to stand up and make sure this doesn’t happen in America."
Gershon decided to invest himself in the presidential race from that moment on. After Trump won the election, he knew he needed to "step up and fight this wave of what could be authoritarianism."
"If you look at what’s happened recently, it’s sure seeming to go that way," Gershon said. "So I decided the best way I could fight the battle is to challenge Lee Zeldin for the office."
Gershon said Trump’s call for a military parade in Washington, D.C., and his remarks that Democrats were "treasonous" for not clapping at his State of the Union address were evidence that Trump was approaching authoritarian rule.
"If we don’t step up behind one of these Democrats to take down Lee Zeldin, we’re all going to be at their mercy," Gershon said.
The New York candidate has not been the only Democrat or Trump critic to compare the president to Hitler. Allan Richarz, a lawyer and writer who has written for the New York Times and New York Daily News among other outlets, said in an op-ed for the Hill that such "overwrought comparisons" to Nazis were "both historically illiterate and an extreme strategic misstep."
Gershon won the Democratic primary for New York’s 1st Congressional District in June to challenge Zeldin for the House seat in the midterm election this fall. The Cook Political Report rates the seat "Likely Republican" by 5 percentage points.
Zeldin defeated six-term incumbent Tim Bishop in 2014 and won re-election in 2016 with over 58 percent of the vote. Trump won the district by 12 percentage points after President Barack Obama carried it in 2008 and 2012.