Rep Chip Cravaack regularly touts his background as a naval officer, and his speech is rife with references to the military and 'dereliction of duty.' One would expect then, that faced with evidence of misconduct by those under his command, Cravaack would deal with the problem head on. But rather than facing up to the decidedly uncivil, undemocratic and perhaps even criminal behavior of those working on his campaign, Cravaack is instead choosing to hide behind the skirts of a woman who organized a campaign event for him in Baxter last Saturday.
That campaign event was advertised in the Brainerd Dispatch as an opportunity for the public to meet Rep. Cravaack. But when one young woman arrived and identified herself as an employee of the DFL, she was told it was a private event. Organizers immediately ordered her to leave even though she is a constituent of Cravaack's and threatened to call the police if she didn't comply. And another woman, a constituent from Milaca, was physically assaulted by a male campaign worker after taking a picture and was likewise thrown out of the public event. On Monday afternoon, we reported that an assault complaint was filed with the Brainerd Police Department in connection with that incident.
In response to our interview with her on Monday afternoon, event organizer Page Wigren issued a formal statement about the incidents after first contacting the Cravaack campaign. This statement appeared in Tuesday's edition of the Duluth News Tribune :
As we were preparing for Congressman Cravaack to arrive at an event I organized in Brainerd, an attendee acted inappropriately when he forcibly removed the DFL tracker who came to tape record the event. This type of behavior is never acceptable, and I feel terrible that something like this would occur. I strongly disapprove of the attendee’s actions, and I apologize for his lack of civility and respect to all those who came to meet with our candidates.Note that the two women and two separate incidents are now combined into one person and one incident, and the male event organizer who assaulted the Milaca woman is now identified as merely an attendee.
The video record of the event does not support the statement issued by Wigren on behalf of the Cravaack campaign.
This video clearly shows event organizers telling the tracker to leave and is consistent with statements Wigren made during our interview:
It is obvious from this video that it was a second woman, not the DFL tracker, who was assaulted and identifies the perpetrator as one of the organizers in the first video:
In our interview with Wigren, she was very clear about the two incidents. She did not at any time refer to the young woman as a 'tracker', nor did she deny that the event organizers involved have a role in Cravaack's campaign. She did decline to make specific comments about why these women were asked to leave, and initially offered a contact for the campaign. But Wigren quickly decided she "shouldn't give out that information" and instead opted to contact the campaign herself. She did call back with a prepared statement after talking with them. When asked if a campaign staffer wrote the statement for her, Wigren responded 'no comment'.
Even the most casual observer can see what's happening here. The Cravaack campaign is once again running away from an unpleasant reality by clouding the issue instead of addressing the serious problem of physical aggression by campaign workers and staffers in what has become a systemic effort to prevent constituents not identified as supporters from attending public meetings. The second video shows that Wigren did intervene to stop the assault on the Milaca woman, and the Cravaack campaign is shamelessly trying to bury their lie in the truth of her genuine concern about that outrageous use of force.
It is Chip Cravack who has fostered a bunker mentality that causes his staffers and supporters to behave like thugs, and it is Chip Cravaack who should shoulder the full responsibility for their actions. Hiding behind the skirts of a female campaign worker is not only cowardly, but a dereliction of duty.
Cross-posted from Iron Country Free Press