FL GOPer Apologizes After Being Caught On Tape Hitting Man Over Campaign Sign

September 15, 2016 10:01 a.m.

UPDATED: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, 2:54 PM ET

After local police released a half-hour-long video showing an argument over a massive campaign sign that culminated in Florida state Rep. Keith Perry smacking another man, the Republican released a public apology this week saying the run-in was a “silly disagreement.”

“Anyone who knows me, knows that it takes quite a bit to rile me up. What began as a silly disagreement over a legal campaign yard sign — that was authorized by the owner to be placed in his yard — escalated, and for my part in that, I apologize,” Perry wrote Wednesday in an email to the Gainesville Sun.

In Perry’s telling of the events to the newspaper, he approached Norman Leppla, 46, for a “good faith” chat Saturday evening about removing a sign emblazoned with his face from the gate of a home. According to Perry, Leppla made physical contact first, chest-bumping him.

Leppla “made threatening comments to my wife and spit in my face,” Perry told The Sun, prompting him to push Leppla away.

According to a Gainesville police report obtained by TPM, Leppla told responding officers that after he temporarily removed the sign to “minimize vandalism,” a woman approached him and started yelling at him to put the sign back. When Perry got involved, Leppla said he realized Perry was the same person on the campaign sign and offered to put it back up. But Perry became “rude” and called him names, Leppla said.

The report said Leppla told Perry to leave “multiple times,” but the lawmaker refused. Perry then hit him with “an open hand against the left side of his neck against his will,” according to the police report. A witness at the scene identified “the senator guy from the sign” as the suspect.

Leppla was initially hesitant to press charges, the report said, but did he did file a complaint. In a statement late Monday, Perry said the situation had been “resolved.”

On Thursday morning, Gainesville Police spokesman Ben Tobias told TPM the complaint had not been withdrawn, but by the afternoon, Leppla withdrew the affidavit.

Perry is currently locked in a tough race for state Senate in a district that leans Democratic.

Watch a clip of the incident below via Politico Florida:

This post has been updated.

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