A battle for the governor’s seat in one of the country’s perennial swing states focused on violence and mental stability this week amid the fallout from Republican Scott Wagner’s promise to “stomp all over” his opponent’s face with “golf spikes.”
Wagner, who is the founder of a waste management business and represented part of York County in the statehouse, has trailed incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf by double digits in every major poll. He made the bizarre threat during a live video on his campaign’s Facebook page on October 12. Hours later, Wagner walked the statements back and removed the original video. “I may have chosen a poor metaphor,” he said in video tweeted out on his official account. “I shouldn’t have said what I said.”
Three days later, Wolf’s campaign fired back with an online ad that calls Wagner “unhinged” and features other instances where he has made similar threats of violence.
Among the incidents highlighted in the ad:
- During a meeting in August 2014 with the York 912 Patriots, who call themselves “a non-partisan group of patriots committed to the Constitution of the United States,” Wagner—then a state senator—donned latex gloves and said, “The next six months in Harrisburg, with me up there in leadership, are gonna get a little bloody. So, you know what, I’m not getting blood on my hands.”
- Before entering politics in 2014, Wagner made a strange analogy during an appearance on Behind the Headlines, a local news program, while discussing the effect of strict regulations on his waste management business. “If I would take my hands and I were to wrap them around your neck and start choking you, what would happen?” he asked the host. “We discussed briefly that you would turn the color of your shirt and then within another minute you’d turn darker like your sport coat. And then you would eventually just hit the ground. Well, we’re being choked in business.”
- Recently, while addressing the York County Estate Planning Council in May 2017, Wagner noticed a man filming him. The cameraman admitted to working as an opposition researcher for American Bridge 21st Century, a progressive super PAC founded by liberal political consultant David Brock, according to a writeup in the York Daily Record. Wagner yanked the camera from the staffer and accused him of trespassing. “Could I please have my camera?” the researcher asked Wagner at one point while continuing to film him on a cell phone. “You’re stealing from me.” Spring Garden Township police were called to the event and the state attorney general’s office opened an investigation into the incident, but no charges ended up being filed.
Wagner, whose campaign website trumpets his “straight talkin'” style, has been criticized before for some controversial rhetorical choices. Last month, on the campaign trail, he recounted an extended analogy—originally cribbed from Infowars—that in part compared undocumented immigrants to “rabid, messy, mean raccoons” that “have overtaken your basement.” As a businessman-turned-politician with a populist tone, Wagner has drawn frequent comparisons to Trump and, in August, received the president’s support at a Keystone State rally.
The original threat to “stomp all over” Wolf’s face received wide bipartisan condemnation last week, including a reprimand from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who had previously accused Democrats of working to “incite even more harassment and violence.” (During a practice last year for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, Scalise was shot by a former volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.)
These comments are totally unacceptable. As I’ve said many times before, there is absolutely no place in our politics for this kind of rhetoric. https://t.co/7GgDITKGM9
— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 12, 2018