Politics
Rep. Denny Rehberg, center, and his wife Jan Rehberg, right, talk with reporters after the first debate of the 2012 election in Big Sky, Mont. on Saturday, June 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Albans) Rep. Denny Rehberg, center, and his wife Jan Rehberg, right, talk with reporters after the first debate of the 2012 election in Big Sky, Mont. on Saturday, June 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Albans)  

Dem activist slugs GOP congressman’s wife with campaign sign

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

It’s all fun and games until somebody gets slugged with a campaign sign — at least in Montana, where following the first U.S. Senate campaign debate this cycle, a Democratic activist hit one candidate’s wife with a rolled up sign.

The debate at Buck’s T-4 in Big Sky, Mont., between Democratic incumbent Jon Tester, Republican challenger Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg and Libertarian Dan Cox reportedly focused on the election issues of the day: jobs, the economy and health care.

The real fireworks, however, took place after the event when an attendee got into a physical altercation with Jan Rehberg, the Republican challenger’s wife.

According to a Rehberg campaign staffer who witnessed the altercation, a female Tester supporter in her late thirties attempted to push her way into a group that included the congressman, who was entertaining questions from reporters, and his wife, daughter Katie and staff.

After exchanging words with Jan Rehberg, she began hitting the candidate’s wife with a rolled up Tester sign.

Managing partner of the Buck T-4, David O’Connor, attended the event and threw the alleged sign-wielding woman, whom he identified as a local environmental activist, off the premises an hour later along with two of her cohorts — who he said were heckling Rehberg during the event.

O’Conner noted, however, that he has seen worse heckling at debates.

The Buck T-4 managing partner told The Daily Caller that while he did not see the woman hit Mrs. Rehberg with the sign, reporters at the event who observed the incident told him about the altercation shortly after it had happened.

NBC Montana reported that the incident consisted largely of pushing and that the Rehbergs immediately left the venue following the incident.

The Rehberg campaign told TheDC that Jan and Katie Rehberg were not physically harmed and that the Rehbergs will not be pressing charges.

Also that night, local Democrat Rachel Vaughn, who had heckled Rehberg during the debate, slapped the wrist of Watchdog.org reporter Dustin Hurst, who she believed to be a Rehberg supporter, “in an effort to knock my recording device, my Droid cell phone, to the ground.”

Hurst provided audio of the altercation to TheDC. It can be heard here. He is not planning to press charges.

“I am not planning to press charges,” Hurst wrote in an email to TheDC. “I could have done so, but it was a minor thing and I’m willing to take it for the job. I think Ms. Vaughn just let her passion get the best of her and I don’t want to get her into legal trouble over it.”

The Tester campaign did not respond to request for comment.

According to the most recent Rasmussen Reports polling data, from June 18, Rehberg is leading Tester 49 percent to 47 percent.

Follow Caroline on Twitter