Ringer for the 51st District
A Democrat running for a state House seat in Pennsylvania says he was attacked and knocked unconscious at his home early Monday morning, and that he believes he’s being targeted with election-related harassment. Richard Ringer, 69, is running for a swing seat in Fayette County, about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh on the border with both Maryland and West Virginia. On Monday morning, Ringer called 911 for the third time in a month—this time to report that a man had assaulted him at his home.
The alleged attack on Ringer comes as officials are on alert about election-related threats and violence. In recent weeks, extremism watchdogs have warned of an uptick of violent rhetoric in far-right circles, as an enormous number of Republican candidates, led by former President Donald Trump, have continuously touted lies about election fraud in 2020. On Monday morning, Ringer says, he woke up around 5 a.m., heard someone attempting to open his garage door, and saw a flashlight in his yard.“I said, ‘I’m tired of this crap,’” Ringer told VICE News.Ringer said a man was in his driveway with his back turned to him, so Ringer tackled him, and “as a result, we end up on the ground.” The man was larger, however, and Ringer said he was hit in the head “about 10 times.” “He knocked me out, so I have no idea who the hell he was,” Ringer told VICE News. A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Police told VICE News in an email that when state troopers arrived, “Ringer had bruises and other minor injuries to various parts of his body.” The investigation is ongoing, but there are no suspects or leads, the spokesperson said.
Ringer, a first-time candidate who’s previously worked as a political consultant and journalist, told VICE News that two weeks ago his door was graffitied. The message was partially washed off by rain by the time he saw it, but in photos it appears to say “your race”—which Ringer, who is white, took to mean his campaign—and “dead.” Photos published by PennLive show bruises on Ringer’s head, face, and hands from the incident Monday, as well as the white graffiti painted on his red garage door.
In another incident within the past three weeks, Ringer came home from dinner with his girlfriend and found that someone had thrown a brick through a window and his storm door. Before October, Ringer told VICE News, he hadn’t called 911 a single time since he moved in 2012 into the house where he grew up, in order to take care of his elderly parents. “I can’t connect the dots on all three incidents with my campaign,” Ringer said. “But the fact there are three incidents in the weeks leading up to the midterm election, and my neighborhood is quiet, residential, middle-class, crime-free—you know, it’s like, what the hell?"The Pennsylvania State Police are also investigating the graffiti and brick incidents, according to Pittsburgh TV station WTAE, which first reported the incident.
Neither the Pennsylvania Democratic Party nor the Pennsylvania GOP immediately responded to requests for comment on Tuesday morning. The seat Ringer is seeking is currently held by a Republican, but Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the district after redistricting, according to Spotlight PA. “I’m not intimidated. I have a thick skin,” Ringer told VICE News. “I think violence should be no part of politics. That kind of crap should not even happen… it’s nonsense, but it doesn’t surprise me.” On Tuesday afternoon, Ringer’s Republican opponent Charity Grimm Krupa denounced the attack on him and said she’d also been targeted with harassment.“No one who has the willingness to put themselves before the public in desire to serve deserves to be treated in such a way,” Krupa said in a Facebook post. “No one–regardless of political belief or party. Even if, by some odd coincidence, the violence perpetrated against Mr. Ringer had nothing to do with politics, it is still 100% wrong.”“Today I was forced to make a police report for an email I received that threatens violence against me specifically related to my running for office,” Krupa continued. “In no way am I saying that the assault on Mr. Ringer is equal to a threatening email. What I am saying is that both are simply wrong and should never have happened.”
“Neighbors should not do things like this to one another,” she added.Agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a bulletin last week warning that “perceptions of election-related fraud and dissatisfaction with electoral outcomes likely will result in heightened threats of violence against a broad range of targets―such as ideological opponents and election workers.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was attacked with a hammer in their San Francisco home last Friday by a man who shouted “Where’s Nancy?” and later told police he wanted to break her kneecaps to show other Democrats that “there were consequences to actions,” according to court documents. The man had an online trail of far-right sympathies,Paul Pelosi suffered a skull fracture and was still in the ICU as of Tuesday morning.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.