HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for governor had some advice Friday for his Democratic opponent: Put on a catcher’s mask because “I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes.”
Hours later, Scott Wagner removed the nearly 3-minute video posted on Facebook, and said he may have used a poor choice of words and that his passion should not be confused with anger.
It was, however, the latest time the former state senator and waste-hauling millionaire has used violent imagery to describe how he would get things done in the Capitol, and it revived a theme that has been used against Wagner previously in the campaign.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s campaign responded by calling it a threat of violence that shows Wagner “is unhinged and unfit for office.”
Asked earlier in the day about the video, Wagner’s campaign said the remarks were metaphorical, and were meant to convey how Wagner will approach the final stretch of the campaign before the Nov. 6 election.
In it, Wagner stood in front of a billboard attacking his waste-hauling company’s practices before making the golf spikes comment.
“Governor, let me tell you, between now and Nov. 6, you’d better put a catcher’s mask on your face because I’m going stomp all over your face with golf spikes because I’m going to win this for the state of Pennsylvania and we’re throwing you out of office because, you know what, I’m sick and tired of your negative ads,” Wagner said in the video.
The billboard was put up by a liberal group not affiliated with Wolf’s campaign and is organized as a “social welfare” nonprofit organization that is not required to disclose its donors. The billboard accuses Wagner’s waste-hauling company, Penn Waste, of suing 6,979 Pennsylvanians. Wagner suggested it was for nonpayment of their bills.
“Hey governor, I don’t know whether you know this or not, but if you have a company and you render a service … you want to get paid for that service,” Wagner said in the video.
Wolf has consistently led independent polls by double-digits and had a huge campaign cash advantage over Wagner of five-to-one as of Sept. 17. Wagner has largely self-financed his campaign and weathered an expensive primary campaign.
He has long raised eyebrows for his references to violence.
“Threats of violence have no place in society, especially from someone running for public office,” Wolf’s campaign said Friday. “This is part of an unfortunate pattern with Scott Wagner.”
Wagner has used other violent imagery in the past to describe how he would get things done in the Capitol as a state senator. In 2014, he talked about wearing gloves to the statehouse because things would get bloody, and another time he spoke of bringing a baseball bat.
In 2016, describing a budget stalemate, he told a Republican audience that GOP lawmakers had Wolf “down on the floor with our foot on his throat and we let him up. Next time, we won’t let him up.”
A primary rival in April aired a TV ad calling him “violent Wagner” and teased a video clip from last year when Wagner grabbed a camera from a campaign tracker working for a liberal political opposition group.
The ad ended with the caption “violent Wagner accused of brutal assault.” However, Wagner was not charged in the incident and the campaign tracker did not appear to suffer more than a minor finger injury.