An already heated congressional race between two Republican candidates became more tense last weekend when Dells Police were called to the Defending the American Dream Summit because of an argument between the two camps.
Dan Mielke, a U.S. Congress candidate from the Seventh District, called 911 when Rachel Duffy, the wife of his opponent Sean Duffy, reportedly came to his booth and was being disruptive Saturday around 10 a.m.
A spokesman for Duffy's campaign, however, said Mielke was the one in the wrong.
The argument started over a video Mielke was showing at his booth. The video, known as "The Wedding Video," starred Sean and Rachel Duffy at a gay wedding, Mielke said in an interview this week.
Mielke said he was showing the video to demonstrate how Duffy isn't the moral conservative he claims to be. "I question whether he takes his current stance [of pro traditional marriage] to get votes," Mielke said.
Duffy spokesman Darrin Schmitz said the video is a "mockumentary" from Sean and Rachel Duffy's days on the MTV show "The Real World."
"Dan Mielke's campaign is focused on lies and destroying the Duffy family," Schmitz said. "In contrast, Sean Duffy's campaign is on Dave Obey and his record in Congress. Mr. Mielke is running a shameful campaign. Sean is pro life, pro traditional marriage. Mr. Mielke knows this. He has been told this over and over. Yet he continues with the lies."
According to reports, Rachel approached Mielke's booth when she heard he was playing the video. What happened after that is up for debate.
Mielke said Rachel tried to rip a duct-taped label, which described the video, off his table.Schmitz said Rachel said, "She approached the booth and tried to determine some writing on a poster," Schmitz said. "He responded by violently grabbing her by the arm. She’s 5-feet tall and eight-and-a-half months pregnant and is a threat to no one, including someone twice her size. No man should be forcibly grabbing a woman, especially someone eight-and-a-half months pregnant."
"She was getting ready to rip them off," Mielke said. "I stopped her and pushed her hand off the tape, and got between her and the table and that’s when she was giving her verbal opinion."
U.S. Senate candidate Rob Taylor, a Constitutional Party member who was sharing the table with Mielke, said, "She reached over to rip this label off. Dan put his hand down sort of to block the label from getting ripped, and maybe touched about a quarter of her hand, but basically to protect his stuff."
Taylor said that’s not true. "What I’m starting to hear is that she is claiming other things happened, which aren’t true. Dan didn’t manhandle her or touch her arm," Taylor said.
After the argument, Mielke said Rachel approached Americans For Prosperity, Wisconsin Chapter Director Mark Block about the video. Mielke said then he called police to document the incident.
Schmitz said the call was an abuse of the 911 system and "a publicity stunt to save his failing campaign."
Officer Brion Stecky spoke with Mielke and a Duffy aide — Rachel was no longer in the area — about what took place and about Mielke not wanting Rachel near his booth, according to his report.
Mielke suggested he put a piece of paper with "view at your own risk" over the computer screen so only people who wanted to see the video would see it.
Stecky agreed to that, and notified Chula Vista security of the incident before he left.
Mielke said whenever he came back to his booth the rest of the day his computer screen was turned off or the computer was unplugged, but there were no other altercations.
Mielke is a 56-year-old from Rudolph, and this is his second attempt at winning a congressional seat. Duffy, 38, lives in Ashland and is in his fourth term as the Ashland County district attorney.