Mackinac Island — A top official for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign said Friday he was punched in the face by a man working for rival Sen. Marco Rubio at a bar on Mackinac Island, where Republicans are gathered this weekend for a leadership conference.
Grand Rapids consultant John Yob, who is Paul’s national political director, said early Friday he was assaulted in a Horn’s Gaslight Bar by Rich Beeson, Rubio’s deputy campaign manager.
Yob, a well-known Michigan GOP political operative, released a bar-room surveillance video Friday showing a man extending an open-handed thrust to the head of another man who looked like Yob, who identified the assailant as Beeson.
“There wasn’t a brawl and the assault shouldn’t be over-sensationalized but the video speaks for itself that he hit me in the chin as he walked by me,” Yob wrote on Facebook. “You can’t just go around the country in positions of political authority and get physically violent with people you don’t like.”
Mackinac Island Police Chief Brett Riccinto said Friday his department forwarded a report about Beeson’s alleged assault of Yob to Mackinac County Prosecutor Stuart Spencer.
“At this time, it’s in his hands on whether he’s going to move forward” with pressing charges, Riccinto said.
The alleged barroom assault was the talk of Mackinac Island Friday as more than 2,200 Michigan Republicans began descending on the tourism mecca for their biennial leadership conference at the Grand Hotel.
The Michigan Republican Party is hosting Paul and five other presidential candidates at the Grand Hotel this weekend for its biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. A record 2,180 Republican leaders, donors and activists have registered to attend the confab.
Rubio is not attending, but his campaign has sent surrogates, including pawn shop reality TV star Rick Harrison of the History Channel show “Pawn Stars.”
Yob called on Rubio to fire Beeson immediately.
“The Rubio campaign is not to blame,” Yob said.
Rubio’s campaign did not return multiple messages Friday morning seeking comment. Beeson could not be reached.
But Marc Caputo, a Florida-based reporter for Politico.com, appeared to rush to Beeson’s defense Friday, saying on Twitter that Yob initially “lied and/or exaggerated about his altercation with” Beeson based on video of the confrontation.
“If you hit (Yob) with a feather, it might indeed knock him over,” Caputo tweeted.
Brandon Hall, a conservative blogger from Grand Haven, said Friday he witnessed Yob being punched at Horn’s bar, a popular Mackinac Island watering hole.
“As I was sitting at the bar talking to someone at Horn’s in Mackinac Island Thursday night, I witnessed (the man) suddenly, out of nowhere, approach one of Rand Paul’s advisers, John Yob — unprovoked — and try to hit him,” Hall wrote on his West Michigan Politics blog. “(He) missed a full on shot but still struck Yob’s in the face with a powerful blow near the jaw.”
Hall said the Rubio campaign official was at the bar trying to drum up votes for the Florida senator in the presidential straw poll The Detroit News and MIRSnews.com are conducting this weekend at the conference.
The man appeared intoxicated as he “wrangled” Republicans at the bar to vote for Rubio in the straw poll, Hall said.
“It’s probably not a good idea to be a loud-mouth drunk about it, and go sucker punch John Yob,” Hall told The News. “That’s probably not the best straw poll strategy.”
The Michigan Republican Party’s conference began Friday afternoon with a reception on the Grand Hotel’s famous front porch followed by Gov. Rick Snyder’s opening remarks.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the lone keynote speaker Friday night. The other five presidential candidates are speaking on Saturday, according to the conference schedule.