Pair trade barbs in GOP lieutenant governor’s race sideshow

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Republican seeking his party’s nomination for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor in next month’s primary threatened one of his eight opponents that he plans to confront him in person over a Facebook post raising questions about his background because it merely mentioned his wife.

The back-and-forth between two candidates in a statewide contest largely overshadowed this spring by nominating races for governor and U.S. Senate began on Thursday.

That’s when state Rep. Russ Diamond of Lebanon County posted a six-minute video with documents about opponent Teddy Daniels’ disability payments, police career and decision to sell a debt-free home just a few months after a veterans’ charity gave him the deed.

“I find it disturbing that Mr. Daniels is portraying himself as some sort of great American hero,” Diamond said in the video. “And even more disturbing that some decent, patriotic, hard-working Republican voters are falling for it.”

Daniels, whose pugnacious campaign style had previously drawn complaints from two other GOP candidates for lieutenant governor, answered a day later with a Facebook post of his own, calling Diamond a loser and his claims “a slimy snake-oil salesman video.”

Daniels said he took particular umbrage that Diamond said Daniels’ wife was listed in state corporate records as an organizer of a marijuana security business with a Coatesville address.

Daniels warned Diamond to expect a confrontation when “you and I are going to be in the same room, I believe twice, before the primary.” Republican candidates for lieutenant governor are expected at a campaign event Friday near Wilkes-Barre.

“I’m curious to see what you’re going to do with a man standing in front of you, now that you want to bring my wife into things,” Daniels said in the video. “You are the lowest, scummiest, dirtiest form of a thing on the face of the earth. And boy you poked the wrong bear.”

He said Diamond was “going to have to answer for that and it’s not going to be over a video. OK? Just so you know, just so you’re aware. That’s something that needs to be handled.”

Diamond said in a phone interview on Wednesday that he was not afraid of Daniels.

“It’s easy to be a tough guy on the internet,” Diamond said.

Daniels also brought up protective orders that had been taken out against Diamond many years ago and a video in which Diamond was recorded referring to police as liars. Daniels did not respond to multiple requests for an interview made through a campaign press aide.

Daniels is running with the endorsement of a leading candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination — state Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County — and leaning heavily on his law enforcement and military background while exhibiting enthusiastic support for former President Donald Trump.

Daniels’ confrontational campaign style caused two of the other Republican primary candidates, former state Rep. Jeff Coleman and New Castle Mayor Chris Frye, to go public last month with an appeal asking Daniels and Mastriano to stop what they called negative attacks, name-calling and spreading misinformation.

“When you escalate rhetoric to this level there’s no coming back,” Coleman said Wednesday. “But more importantly, it shifts the conversation from the voters’ problems and makes this a personal grudge match.”

Daniels, whose helmet camera video of himself being shot in Afghanistan in 2012 has been viewed online millions of times, was given the Coatesville house by the Military Warriors Support Foundation in December 2016. Diamond said that the deed was transferred to Daniels in January 2020, and in October of that year he sold the property for $167,000.

A spokeswoman for the foundation, Casey Kinser, said Daniels met the group’s requirement that his family live in the house for at least three years and complete a financial literacy program.

“At that point it is their choice what they do,” Kinser said. “Obviously, we would prefer that the families stay where they are, but life circumstances lead them elsewhere sometimes — that’s fine.”