An angry Sen. Wagner takes matters into his own hands - literally

HARRISBURG – Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner calls it a dirty campaign trick.

His campaign tracker calls it assault.

What is for sure is that a routine luncheon speech at a country club near York on Tuesday landed Wagner the role of unwitting star in a pair of YouTube videos, showing him angrily confiscating a video camera from the tracker, who works for a liberal-leaning opposition-research super PAC based in Washington.

“You’re about to see your senator in action,” Wagner is heard saying on the first video, unhitching a microphone from his lapel and striding over to the tracker from American Bridge 21st Century, to loud applause from the audience. The confrontation starts at minute 4:46.

In a second video, which the tracker took with his cellphone as he tried to get his video equipment back, Wagner, who is seeking to challenge Gov. Wolf in next year's election, is seen forcefully trying to block the camera, leaving the tracker complaining of an assault that left him with a bloody finger.

“You just assaulted me,” the tracker says.

“No, I didn’t assault you,” Wagner says, pointing his finger at the tracker and demanding that he put away his cellphone camera.

Police were called to the Country Club of York, where Wagner is a member, but it does not appear any charges were filed.

Tuesday night, Wagner, a fiscally conservative state senator from York and president of a trash removal and recycling company, said he was well within his rights.

“This is a private club and he was trespassing -- he should have been charged with trespassing,” Wagner said. "There is a boundary, and he crossed the boundary.”

Wagner said he expects the campaign to be nasty, but draws the line at being followed into a private club for a speech he said was not related to his campaign. He said he was speaking to a room of attorneys and accountants about estate planning.

“You want to go to court? Let’s go to court,” Wagner said later, challenging the opposition group. 

Lizzy Price, an American Bridge communications director, had a different perspective: “Scott Wagner's actions today show how unhinged he truly is. If he can't handle the pressure of the campaign, what makes him think he can handle leading the state? ”

American Bridge describes itself as “a progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions.”

The group was founded by David Brock, a right-wing operative turned liberal activist who was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton during last year’s presidential campaign.

Trackers have become staples in high-profile campaigns, shadowing candidates on the trail, often in an attempt to catch them saying something controversial or embarrassing.

Price would not identify the tracker, who she said got his video camera and tripod back, but without the memory card. Even so, she said, the tracker was able to retrieve the footage because he had set it to record both on the camera and the memory card. 

She said the tracker received medical attention and is fine.