In New York’s 21st Congressional District, Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb has been trying to clean up the mess created by the release of a video showing her admitting that she was lying to the voters of the district about her position on a weapons ban. Those efforts at damage control in her attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik haven’t been particularly successful thus far, but nobody said politics was a game of softball. Now, however, the story has taken another turn. According to the Free Beacon, Cobb’s campaign manager, Mike Szustak, is no longer associated with the campaign. Huh. I wonder what could be going on here?
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.
Every campaign is subject to occasional personnel turnover so it’s difficult to pin this one down precisely. But having spent some time on the trail myself over the years, I can tell you that the campaign manager is one position which generally doesn’t change hands. The exceptions to this are if the CM runs into some truly tragic news on the health or personal fronts which would prevent them from being available to finish the race or if the campaign goes totally on the rocks. No reason is being given yet for Szustak’s departure, but we may have enough information to make an educated guess.
Stefanik’s campaign manager, Leonardo Alcivar, tweeted some interesting news about Szustak shortly after the video surfaced. We don’t have all of the details, but it included the hashtag #EpicAcelaMeltdown.
.@dccc call your office, again! Tell your #NY21 operatives to not have public meltdowns screaming their heads off in Acela Cafe Car. @TedraCobb’s campaign manager in shorts & flip-flops drinking a beer & melting down screaming for 90-mins in full damage control!#EpicAcelaMeltdown
— Leonardo Alcivar (@alcivar) July 12, 2018
This doesn’t sound like a situation where Szustak just learned that he needs to head home to take care of a sick relative, and the fact that it took place so soon after news of the video broke is a bit much to write off to coincidence. It also seems unlikely that Cobb would have fired him over this debacle since she basically brought it on herself. (Or if she did, she should be up for a role in the next Horrible Bosses sequel.) So did Szustak simply realize that an already tough race was quickly turning into a complete disaster and decide to get his name off it rather than go down with the ship? Who knows? Like I said, I’m just guessing here.