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Pennsylvania State House candidate describes threats against him


The story of one political candidate - he's running for state legislature in Pennsylvania. Richard Ringer lives in Uniontown in a place where he thought he knew the community.

RICHARD RINGER: I grew up here in Fayette County, and this is my childhood, where I grew up, the house I'm living in.

INSKEEP: But he's since learned about something he didn't know - the harder edge of politics. Ringer told police he was attacked in recent days. Now, this attack is murkier than the one on Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, where the suspect told police he attacked for explicitly political motives. But Mr. Ringer reports several incidents. He has a background in journalism and in politics and then talked over running himself with local Democrats.

RINGER: And they had several in mind. None of them, for various reasons, wanted to jump into the race. And I thought it was crazy that a Democrat not be in this race. So I threw my hat in. This is the first time I've ever run for office.

INSKEEP: Voters in his district told him they cared about abortion, the economy, crime. They have chosen Donald Trump in past elections, but redistricting has given Democrats like him a better chance to win. And then something began happening. Words were scrawled in white spray paint on Ringer's garage door.

RINGER: Essentially, the message on it was your race - meaning my campaign - is dead. Watch yourself. You're going to be next. And I think they were just playing off the idea - trying to be cool - you know, with the idea dead Ringer. It's like...

INSKEEP: I'm trying not to laugh. This is not...

RINGER: Well, I am, too.

INSKEEP: OK, but, I mean, did you take that as an extremely tasteless prank or as a genuine threat?

RINGER: I took it as a threat because I called the Uniontown state police, who came over, and, you know, I filed a report with them.

INSKEEP: What was the next incident?

RINGER: Well, it was last Thursday. I came home. Girlfriend and I went out for dinner. I came home about 11 o'clock. The storm door window was broken. And I opened the door, and there was a brick at the bottom, between the two doors. And that was just like, oh my God, what's going on? And then Monday morning, it's about 5 a.m. I heard somebody was trying to - it sounded to me like they were trying to pull the garage door up. And I looked out the window, and I saw a flashlight going across the yard. And I said, I'm tired of this. So I got dressed and went out through the front door, walked down to the driveway. There's a guy there with his back to me, and I just tackled him, ended up on the ground, and he just started hitting me in the head and in the face, I would say approximately 10 times. He hit me unconscious. You know, when I came to, I have no idea where he left, how he left, who he was. And I just came in and called 911.

INSKEEP: Did you go to the hospital?

RINGER: No, I did not. You know, Tylenol and ice bags the last couple of days have worked wonders for me.

INSKEEP: I just looked up the population of Uniontown, Pa. - 9,803.

RINGER: And it's falling. Yes.

INSKEEP: And you said you grew up there.


INSKEEP: Is it possible the person or people targeting you is in fact someone who has known you for years?

RINGER: I can't even speculate there. There's been a lot of talk on local radio talk shows this week. Some of the people were just like, you know, denying the - you know, disinformation and misinformation. Somebody else have - you know, I'm just taking a page out of Nancy Pelosi's sympathy book. Well, that's just ridiculous.

INSKEEP: Has any of this changed your view of the wisdom of running for office?

RINGER: Absolutely not.

INSKEEP: You're determined to go ahead.

RINGER: Oh, absolutely. The only thing that worries me is what impact something like this would have on individuals who were thinking about running for office in the future. And I'm concerned about what might happen on Tuesday with poll workers and people going to the polls.

INSKEEP: How do you feel about your chances on Tuesday?

RINGER: It's going to be tough. It's going to be close.

INSKEEP: Well, Richard Ringer, however it turns out, best of luck to you personally.

RINGER: I certainly appreciate it.

INSKEEP: Richard Ringer is a candidate for state legislature in southwestern Pennsylvania. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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