New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc dodged a punch from a man who tried to assault him just before his debate Wednesday evening with incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), his campaign said Thursday.
According to Bolduc’s campaign, the man attempted to physically strike the GOP nominee for the closely watched race outside Saint Anselm College, where the debate was held. Joseph Hart, 37, of Greenville, Rhode Island, was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, Goffstown Police said.
“Prior to the debate, an individual in the crowd gathered outside attempted to punch the General and was quickly apprehended and arrested. We are grateful [for] the quick response from law enforcement on the scene,” Bolduc campaign spokesperson Kate Constantini said.
Bolduc, 60, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, was unharmed and went on to face off against Hassan in their third and final debate before Election Day.
Bolduc vaguely referenced the incident on stage during the debate.
“It’s a sign of the times. It’s a sign of political problems. Republicans and Democrats that fuel issues with people that get them to the point where they are just so upset at an individual that they strike out at them,” Bolduc said.
“[It] happened to me outside just before I came in here. This is wrong and it needs to be stopped,” he said.
Bolduc’s campaign added to his remarks in a statement after the debate.
“As the General said on stage tonight, it’s time to lower the temperature of the political discourse in this country,” a Bolduc campaign spokesperson told Boston 25 News.
The Hassan campaign condemned the attempted attack on Bolduc and claimed the would-be attacker was a Libertarian Party activist.
“Disgusting behavior,” said Kevin Donohoe, a spokesperson for the Hassan campaign, in a tweet. “We saw this same libertarian party activist get aggressive with our campaign volunteers at this debate and the last.”
Goffstown Police said the man approached Bolduc while he was greeting supporters.
Previously, Saint Anselm College officials had asked Hart to leave the campus, saying he was no longer welcome on the property, police said. Hart was in the crowd of dozens of supporters of both candidates.
“A short time later, a disturbance occurred when Mr. Hart approached Mr. Bolduc who was greeting his supporters,” Goffstown Police said. “Officers converged on the area and all parties were separated. Following that disturbance, Mr. Hart was taken into custody by the Goffstown Police Department and charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.”
“This incident is under investigation,” police said.
Hart has been released on personal recognizance bail. He is set to be arraigned on December 1 at the Goffstown District Court.
Hassan herself tweeted out a statement denouncing the incident.
“The behavior of the Libertarian Party agitators toward Don Bolduc last night was despicable,” the incumbent senator wrote. “I want to thank the Goffstown Police and St. Anselm College for their commitment to keeping everyone safe.”
Bolduc and Hassan are in a dead-heat race for Hassan’s Senate seat. As of Thursday, Hassan leads Bolduc by a razor-thin margin of just half a point, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.