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May 12, 3:03 PM EDT

NY tea party candidate scuffles with cameraman

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NY tea party candidate scuffles with cameraman

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A 15-second video shows a tea party congressional candidate in New York scuffling with a Republican Party volunteer who questioned his absence from a debate.

The video posted on YouTube shows candidate Jack Davis asking the volunteer Wednesday whether he wants to "punch it out" after a campaign event in Greece, outside Rochester.

Davis was responding to the man's repeated calls for him to explain why he backed out of a debate held Thursday in Buffalo.

Davis announced Wednesday he'd changed his mind about participating in the debate with the two major party candidates in the May 24 special election for the 26th District seat. Instead, he said he'd speak to voters directly via an electronic town hall meeting May 21.

In the video, the 78-year-old candidate steps toward the volunteer, who was holding a camera and asking, "Why did you back out of the debate? Why did you back out of the debate?"

"Do you want to punch it out?" Davis asks before swiping at the camera with his right hand.

Davis then laughs as he walks to his car while a man who appears to be a Davis campaign aide approaches the cameraman. As the camera shakes, the cameraman groans out of view as if he has been struck and then resumes asking Davis, "Why did you back out of the debate?"

The video recalled a confrontation during last year's gubernatorial race, when Republican candidate Carl Paladino of Buffalo told New York Post State Editor Fred Dicker, "I'll take you out," while warning him to keep photographers away from his young daughter.

Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy said Thursday the cameraman in the Davis video was a Republican volunteer but declined to identify him.

The volunteer was not hurt but is consulting a lawyer because "someone laid hands on him," Langworthy said.

"It's just unheard of that a candidate would get physical," Langworthy said. He questioned whether Davis has the temperament to serve in Congress.

Davis spokesman Curtis Ellis said the cameraman was leaning on Davis' car before the scuffle while a second man with a camera was filming the first.

"They were shouting at him, 'You're a coward, you're a coward!'" Ellis said. "Then they got in his face and prevented him from getting in his own car."

"Both campaigns are sending out these thugs and engaging these bully boy tactics," Ellis said.

The 26th District seat was vacated by Republican Christopher Lee in February after a website published a shirtless photo sent to a woman he'd been flirting with on Craigslist.

Neither Republican candidate Jane Corwin nor Democrat Kathleen Hochul would comment on the Davis video after the debate at WGRZ-TV. Both said they hadn't seen it.

Davis, a wealthy Republican businessman, ran for the congressional seat as a Democrat in 2004, 2006 and 2008. A late April Siena poll showed him at 23 percent in the Republican-leaning western New York district. The poll showed 36 percent of likely voters supporting Corwin and 31 percent favoring Hochul. Green Party candidate Ian Murphy trailed with 5 percent.

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