Police investigating Sen. Wagner's confrontation with cameraman
People attending a luncheon at the Country Club of York on Tuesday got to see their "senator in action" when Scott Wagner confronted an employee of a liberal super PAC and confiscated the man's camera.
Video of the incident and subsequent cellphone footage of the super PAC worker trying to get his camera back were posted to YouTube by American Bridge 21st Century.
The group describes itself on its website as "a progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions and helping you ascertain when Republican candidates are pretending to be something they’re not."
Wagner — a Republican state senator from Spring Garden Township who's challenging Gov. Tom Wolf in next year's gubernatorial race — and representatives from his campaign were not available for comment, but he did email a statement.
"Yesterday a tracker ... lied and trespassed on private property for a speech that I was giving in my role as a senator," he said in the statement. "Instead of leaving when he was asked, the tracker continued to harass me and the people at the event, and finally I assisted in removing his camera. There are times when there is no choice but to stand up and confront the cheater in the room."
Most of the first video is Wagner speaking about estate planning until he notices the camera and asks about the man filming and whether he is a "tracker."
Trackers often are hired to shadow political candidates in high-profile campaigns in an attempt to catch them saying or doing something controversial.
Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf's campaign, wrote in an email that the governor has been tracked by opposing groups and campaigns but has never had a confrontation with any tracker.
Lizzy Price, a spokeswoman for American Bridge 21st Century, said the tracker has filmed Wagner before, and the senator should have recognized him.
Once the man filming admits he's a tracker, Wagner takes off his lapel microphone and walks over the tracker to confiscate his camera because "I'm a member here and you're not a member and you're trespassing."
"You're about to see your senator in action," Wagner said to the crowd.
Wagner received applause as he took the camera despite claims from the tracker that he couldn't.
"I'm taking it," Wagner can be heard saying just before the end of the video. "Watch me take it."
More than a year away from the primary election, Beth Melena, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said in a statement, "Wagner proved yesterday that he is unhinged and cannot handle the pressures of a gubernatorial campaign."
Price said her organization has been tracking Republican candidates since 2013, and no other candidate has ever confronted a tracker as harshly as Wagner.
She added that her organization also is tracking other potential GOP gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania and would continue to track Wagner, but she declined to say which candidates or whether the same tracker would continue filming Wagner.
Melena and Price said the state party and tracking organization do not coordinate efforts.
During the second video, Wagner appears to push past the tracker, who then claims that he's been assaulted.
"I'm doing it for my own protection because I'm scared right now," the tracker says about why he's filming with his cellphone.
Most of the rest of the video is the tracker speaking with two other men regarding his presence in the private club.
Wagner briefly emerges from a room toward the end of video urging the tracker to leave, but the tracker says he's waiting for police because he's bleeding and Wagner attacked him.
Police were called to the scene, and the incident is under investigation, according to Spring Garden Township Police Chief George Swartz.
The department will be interviewing people who were present during the incident, but no conclusions have been drawn yet, Swartz said.
Wagner eventually returned the tracker's camera but not the memory card, Price said, adding that the group was able to upload the video because it was simultaneously saved to the camera.