State GOP decries videotaped run-in with McGraw
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A weekend run-in between West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw and a Republican video tracker has reached YouTube and prompted calls from the GOP staffer for an apology.
A Democrat seeking a sixth term, McGraw was among several elected officials and candidates attending the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival Parade on Saturday in Milton when he encountered someone assigned by his Republican opponent, Patrick Morrisey, to follow and videotape him.
The resulting video, posted by Morrisey, shows McGraw quizzing the staffer, who identifies himself as Justin Lafferty.
"Are you a stalker?'' McGraw, who turns 76 in November, asks Lafferty at one point.
The video ends as McGraw's hand is seen reaching for the camera. Morrisey's campaign alleges McGraw "attacked'' Lafferty, grabbing the camera and tearing its hand-strap. Campaign spokesman Scott Will said Lafferty, 24, has written McGraw requesting an apology.
"That is my only request right now,'' Lafferty said in a press release. "I will await his response before saying or doing anything further.''
Milton police were on hand for the festival parade. Milton Police Chief Gary Lilly on Monday said that nothing about any incident has been reported to him. McGraw and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Video tracking has become common in political campaigns, with staffers deployed to follow and record opposing candidates while sometimes peppering them with questions meant to antagonize. U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican running for the U.S. Senate, was recently seen apparently giving the middle finger -- very fleetingly -- to an opposition tracker videotaping him. Rehberg's campaign argues he was scratching his head.
West Virginia Republicans compared Saturday's incident to one in 2004 involving McGraw's brother. Then-Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw was recorded at a Labor Day rally railing about opposition trackers following him. Dubbed the "Scream at Racine,'' the episode became fodder for ads that the GOP credits for McGraw's election defeat that year.