A Democrat seeking a U.S. House seat in deep-red West Virginia made an apparent physical threat to a state delegate, saying “when I’m done with you, you will beg me to ease up.”
Richard Ojeda, an Army veteran and state senator who’s been branded as a “JFK with tattoos and a bench press” and a so-called “Trump Democrat” for voting for the president during the 2016 election, has been accused of physically threatening Rupie Phillips, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates since 2013.
"When I’m done with you, you will beg me to ease up. I’m going to make you famous… and it’s not going to be in a good way."
“When I’m done with you, you will beg me to ease up. I’m going to make you famous… and it’s not going to be in a good way,” Ojeda wrote in a Facebook message to the lawmaker.
Phillips is a Democrat-turned-Republican who ran for the party’s nomination for U.S. Congress but lost to Republican Carol Miller – Ojeda’s opponent in the upcoming midterm election in November. He shared the threatening message in a Facebook post on Sunday. Ojeda initially blocked Phillips on Facebook after sending the message but unblocked him after the messages were posted by Phillips.
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, he said the threat from Ojeda was prompted after Miller attended an annual craft beer tasting and a chili cook off festival in his area where he introduced her to the local crowd.
“What boils down to, [Ojeda] had some family members at the cookout and they’re talking about me taking Miller around to his hometown and introduce her to people. I guess he thought he could scare me and I guess I hurt his feelings,” Phillips said of what could have prompted Ojeda to send him the message.
The Ojeda campaign did not deny the message was sent by the candidate, but pushed back against its meaning.
“This is absurd and obviously not a threat of physical violence,” the campaign’s spokeswoman told Fox News. “Richard was speaking about exposing Del. Phillips for his corruption in the West Virginia legislature.
"This is absurd and obviously not a threat of physical violence."
“Richard has stood against corruption in government from the beginning of his political career and that will never change. It’s truly sad that families in our communities are being ripped apart my opioids and devastated by poverty and Delegate Rupie Phillips has chosen to focus his attention on this. It’s obvious where his priorities are and it is not with the people of West Virginia."
Phillips claims this isn't the first time Ojeda has targeted him. In August, the Democratic candidate suggested he was a bootlicker by sending him a cartoon of a character licking a boot.
“Ever since 2014 when I wasn’t supporting him when he ran against [Democrat Rep.] Nick Rahall for U.S. Congress, he’s been against me,” Phillips said, noting that he’s never engaged with him.
“He has verbally attacked me many times on his social media over the past four years and I just bit my tongue, being a bigger person and going down the road,” he added.
The local lawmaker said he read the message as a threat of physical violence and called Ojeda a “school yard bully” who doesn’t “know what to do when someone stands up to him.”
Ojeda is running in a district that Trump won by 50 points. Despite the deep-red district, Ojeda has been making gains, with the latest poll claiming he’s leading his Republican opponent by five points. An earlier poll, meanwhile, said Miller is leading by eight points.
His campaign carries a populist theme, including his support for the coal industry and hopes of seeing Trump succeed as the president. But despite such comments, he also made numerous anti-Trump remarks.
“He hasn’t done s---,” Ojeda told Politico about Trump, expressing regret at having supported the Republican presidential nominee. “It’s been a friggin’ circus for a solid year,” he continued, claiming that Trump hadn’t changed anything for the people.
“All he’s done is shown that he’s taking care of the daggone people he’s supposed to be getting rid of,” Ojeda added.
Ojeda has also flip-flopped – around the time he started running for U.S. Congress – on his views regarding whether illegal immigrants are exploiting the welfare system.
“When you hear about illegal aliens getting benefits and you have people here starving to death and can’t get nothing, it’s just a slap in the face,” Ojeda told the New Yorker magazine in 2016. “When you start talking about bringing in refugees and when they get here they get medical and dental and they get set up with some funds — what do we get?”
He added: “So when people hear Donald Trump saying we’re going to take benefits away from people who come here illegally and give them to people who work, that sounds pretty good.”
Over a year later, Ojeda dismissed any suggestions that illegal immigrants have access to a social safety net, calling it a “myth.”
“Yeah, most immigrants don’t receive food stamps or welfare. That’s a myth, ladies and gentlemen,” Ojeda said on Facebook. “If they’re in this country, for the most part, and they’re not here legally, they’re trying to get through it? Guess what? They don’t get them.”