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Senate candidate says someone ‘attempted to punch’ him prior to debate

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New Hampshire Republican Don Bolduc, a candidate for US Senate, says someone “attempted to punch” him prior to Wednesday’s debate at Saint Anselm College. Joseph Hart, 37, of Greenville, Rhode Island, is charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, according to Goffstown police. Bolduc first referenced the incident with a vague remark included in his answer to a question about political violence 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,” said Bolduc, a retired US Army general. “(It) happened to me outside just before I came in here. This is wrong and it needs to be stopped.” Police said Saint Anselm College officials told Hart, who was among the dozens of supporters for both candidates outside the debate, he was no longer welcome on their property and had to leave. Police said a short time later, a “disturbance” occurred when Hart approached Bolduc as the candidate was greeting his supporters. Officers converged on the area and all parties were separated, police wrote in a news release. Hart was taken into custody by Goffstown police following the disturbance, police said. On Thursday morning, Bolduc’s campaign provided an additional statement about the incident the candidate was referencing. “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,” said campaign spokesperson Kate Constantini.” I wouldn’t call it ‘an assault,'” Bolduc said on Thursday. “If the police didn’t do their job, it probably would have been an assault but I can’t speculate. I’m grateful the police were there, grateful they did their job.” The video released by Free Keene appears to show Bolduc’s elbow going into Hart.”He threw an elbow. He went like this, right, into my chest,” Hart told WMUR, demonstrating how he said Bolduc elbowed him. “And then his supporters continued to attack me while he’s saying he hit me, which is inciting his supporters to continue to assault me.” Bolduc is running against Democratic incumbent US Sen. Maggie Hassan and made the remark in response to a question about how much responsibility they think politicians have to prevent political violence. The question specifically referenced last week’s violent assault on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in their San Francisco home.”I heard about it afterwards,” Hassan said. “Obviously there’s no place for political violence in New Hampshire or America and I’m glad he wasn’t harmed.” Hassan’s campaign communications director Kevin Donohoe called the incident “disgusting behavior,” and alleged that the individual involved has a history of aggressive behavior at political events. “We saw this same libertarian party activist get aggressive with our campaign volunteers at this debate and the last,” Donohoe said. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Kevin Laroche at 603-497-4858, police said. Watch the full exchange from both candidates in the video player above. WMUR contributed to this report.

New Hampshire Republican Don Bolduc, a candidate for US Senate, says someone “attempted to punch” him prior to Wednesday’s debate at Saint Anselm College.

Joseph Hart, 37, of Greenville, Rhode Island, is charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, according to Goffstown police.

Bolduc first referenced the incident with a vague remark included in his answer to a question about political violence 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,” said Bolduc, a retired US Army general. “(It) happened to me outside just before I came in here. This is wrong and it needs to be stopped.”

joseph hart, 37, of greenville, ri

Goffstown Police

Joseph Hart, 37, of Greenville, RI

Police said Saint Anselm College officials told Hart, who was among dozens of supporters for both candidates outside the debate, he was no longer welcome on their property and had to leave.

Police said a short time later, a “disturbance” occurred when Hart approached Bolduc as the candidate was greeting his supporters. Officers converged on the area and all parties were separated, police wrote in a news release.

Hart was taken into custody by Goffstown police following the disturbance, police said.

On Thursday morning, Bolduc’s campaign provided an additional statement about the incident the candidate was referencing.

“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,” said campaign spokesperson Kate Constantini.

“I wouldn’t call it ‘an assault,'” Bolduc said on Thursday. “If the police didn’t do their job, it probably would have been an assault but I can’t speculate. I’m grateful the police were there, grateful they did their job.”

The video released by Free Keene appears to show Bolduc’s elbow going into Hart.

“He threw an elbow. He went like this, right, into my chest,” Hart told WMUR, demonstrating how he said Bolduc elbowed him. “And then his supporters continued to attack me while he’s saying he hit me, which is inciting his supporters to continue to assault me.”

Bolduc is running against Democratic incumbent US Sen. Maggie Hassan and made the remark in response to a question about how much responsibility they think politicians have to prevent political violence. The question specifically referenced last week’s violent assault on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in their San Francisco home.

“I heard about it afterwards,” Hassan said. “Obviously there’s no place for political violence in New Hampshire or America and I’m glad he wasn’t harmed.”

Hassan’s campaign communications director Kevin Donohoe called the incident “disgusting behavior,” and alleged that the individual involved has a history of aggressive behavior at political events.

“We saw this same libertarian party activist get aggressive with our campaign volunteers at this debate and the last,” Donohoe said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Kevin Laroche at 603-497-4858, police said.

Watch the full exchange from both candidates in the video player above. WMUR contributed to this report.

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