State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Wagner's late-stage campaign move? Face-stomping (metaphorically).

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 12, 2018 5:09 PM
wagner golf spikes cropped.jpg

A screenshot from Wagner's Facebook Live video.

 

(York) -- Pennsylvania's Republican candidate for governor released a video of himself Friday saying he wants to stomp on the sitting governor's face with golf spikes.

The Facebook Live video opened on a York County roadside, with Wagner standing next to a chair laden with envelopes. Above him was a billboard, which said Wagner's waste-hauling company has sued 6,979 Pennsylvanians.

Wagner called the billboard unfair, saying the customers owed his business money. He accused Democratic Governor Tom Wolf of causing budget impasses. Gesturing to the envelopes, he said he regularly gives paychecks to employees of his waste business.

Then, this:

"Your people said that I've raised a white flag?" Wagner asked, pointing a finger at the camera. "Well Governor Wolf, let me tell you, between now and November 6th you better put a catcher's mask on your face because I'm going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes."

Six hours later, after a storm of criticism -- including denouncements from fellow Republicans on the state and national level -- Wagner took the video down. The audio is still available here:

In the video's place, he posted a quasi-apology in which he said he "may have chosen a poor metaphor" and "shouldn't have said what I said," before going on to criticize Wolf for refusing a second debate. 

A spokesman for Wagner said the golf spikes comment was metaphorical.

The campaign doesn't deny that Wagner has sued almost 7,000 people--saying that's normal for a trash company.

A spokeswoman for Wolf, meanwhile, called the video an "unhinged rant."

And Chris Borick, an analyst and pollster from Muhlenberg College, said it probably won't get Wagner many new supporters outside of his Trump-voting base.

"He's a little bit desperate right now. He's way down in the polls, he's having trouble raising funds," Borick said.

An average of recent independent polls has Wagner trailing Wolf by almost 17 points, and the candidates' latest campaign filings show Wolf with $8.9 million on hand to Wagner's $1.9 million.

Borick added, he doesn't think Wagner's latest video will help very much.

"You see a lot of candidates dipping into the rhetoric and style of President Trump, trying to mimic his success," he said. "I don't think it works very well for others."

Contrary to Wagner's claims in the video, Wolf's campaign didn't put up the lawsuit billboard. It's one of five around York and Harrisburg funded by PA Spotlight, a left-leaning nonprofit that said it doesn't have any connection to the Wolf campaign.

This story has been updated to include Wagner's apology and removal of his original Facebook video.

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