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Gubernatorial Candidate Wagner Grabs Opposition Researcher's Camera

Marc Levy
Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner, of York County, announces that he will run for Pennsylvania governor on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 in Manchester, Pa.

A Republican legislator who is running for Pennsylvania governor grabbed a camera away from a man who works for a liberal opposition research group, and police are investigating.

State Sen. Scott Wagner said Wednesday he "assisted in removing" the camera because the man had no business filming him during a speech at a private country club the day before.

Washington-based American Bridge 21st Century, the man's employer, said the camera was returned but not the memory card. The group says on its website its goal is to hold Republicans accountable.

The owner of a trash hauling company, Wagner won a special election to the state Senate in 2014 through a write-in campaign after the York County Republican establishment backed another candidate.

He is seeking the right to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018.

Wagner was giving a presentation at the Country Club of York when he asked attendees: "Is this guy one of your guys, or is he a tracker?" Pointing to the cameraman, he asked, "Who are you with?"

The man replied he was with American Bridge, prompting Wagner to ask how he got in. "I'm going to confiscate your camera," he said.

Before going after him Tuesday, Wagner accused the cameraman of trespassing and told his audience, "You're about to see your senator in action."

The operator told him not to take his camera. Wagner replied: "I'm taking it, watch me take it, OK?"

He then grabbed the camera and took it out of the room.

A cellphone video shot by the same man shows Wagner manipulating what appears to be a video camera. When the operator asked him for the camera back, Wagner appeared to shove his hand onto the man's cellphone. They briefly argued over whether Wagner assaulted him, and the man continued to film as he showed Wagner what appeared to be a minor finger injury.

Spring Garden Township Police Chief George Swartz said police had to interview people at the event to determine if any charge would be warranted.

In a statement released by his campaign, Wagner said: "There are times when there is no choice but to stand up and confront the cheater in the room."

He said the state needs "a governor who is strong enough to stand up for the people of Pennsylvania."

American Bridge said its employee was physically attacked but not seriously injured. The group declined to identify him.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was first to report the confrontation.