A candidate forum in Fayetteville yesterday produced a post-debate exchange between opponents for a state Senate seat — Democrat Greg Leding and Republican Dawn Clemence — that at least one Republican Party employee has called an “assault.”

The available video, shown above, doesn’t capture clearly all of the exchange or an apparent brief contact.


After criticism broke out among Republicans, Leding issued this statement , according to KARK:

My opponent called out to me from the stage. So she wouldn’t have to lean down to talk, I joined her on the stage. I apologize for patting her shoulder as we parted.

Republicans derided Leding’s explanation. Most extreme might have been this from the Arkansas Republican Twitter account:


Our Executive Director Sarah Jo Reynolds has called on the @ArkDems to take action against @gregleding’s display of unprofessional behavior, and has also demanded an apology from him for assaulting Republican Candidate Dawn Clemence.

Subsequently, Leding expanded on the apology in a statement distributed by the Democratic Party:

“After the forum, I left the stage. My opponent made some additional comments to me, so I hopped back up on stage, joining her at its edge. I’ve worked very hard to serve all the people who live in the district I represent—work that has consistently included legislation and advocacy for women, teachers, students, firefighters, working families, and more—and that work’s been misrepresented in this campaign. I was frustrated, but it’s not acceptable to act on that. I apologize to Mrs. Clemence.

“In these closing weeks of the campaign, I’ll continue to hold public events, keep walking door to door, and keep working hard for all Arkansans.”

I would like to have the video shot by a man you can see in the background of this clip holding up a phone. He might have captured the “pat” on Clemence’s shoulder.


Clemence herself hasn’t posted a direct comment on Twitter. Her race with Leding for Sen. Uvalde Lindsey’s seat has been occupied often with differences on guns. Clemence has been critical of Leding’s proposal for a “red flag” law that would permit barring gun possession in a judicial process for people judged to be a danger to themselves or others. “He wants to take your guns,” Clemence has said.

Whoever you believe in this incident, Leding stepped into an evolving effort by Republicans around the country to use the “Me, Too” movement to their advantage where possible. “Believe women,” they say, at least when they are women criticizing Democrats, if not Christine Ford.

UPDATE: Clemence rejected Leding’s apology. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this statement from her:

“When you encroached on my personal space, pointed your finger in my face, and placed your hands on me, you demeaned the office you currently hold and the one in which you seek,” Clemence said in a statement.

Also on Thursday, two days after the event, Democratic Party Chair Michael John Gray chastised Leding and apologized:


“Representative Greg Leding’s behavior at Tuesday’s candidate forum was unacceptable. While Representative Leding has long been an effective advocate for his district, he should not have allowed frustrations from the campaign get the better of him. Rep. Leding has done the right thing by apologizing to Mrs. Dawn Clemence. We shouldn’t be defined by our mistakes, but how we respond to them.

“Our party and our candidates have always championed a higher standard for Arkansas, and in turn we should hold ourselves accountable to that standard.”