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Supporters Cheer as Senate Candidate Brags He Punched a Voter Who ‘Questioned’ Him

Mississippi Senate District 5 candidate Mario Barnes is promoting his campaign with a video in which he punches a man who questioned his military record. Photo via Mario for Mississippi.

A Mississippi Senate candidate is promoting his campaign with security camera footage that shows him punching a voter who asked “questions” he did not like.

Last September, Republican Mario Barnes joined several Chris McDaniel for U.S. Senate staffers and Lance Acton, a voter who had shown up to meet McDaniel, for drinks at the Tupelo Holiday Inn and Suites.

At some point, Acton said something that set Barnes off, and the burly McDaniel volunteer, who was not yet a candidate himself, flicked a cigarette at Acton and punched him in the side of the head. Acton later told the Clarion-Ledger that he had to be treated for orbital fractures to his face. Police arrested Barnes on a misdemeanor drunk in public charge.

On Friday, Barnes uploaded a video to his “Mario for Mississippi” campaign page on Facebook that shows the attack and the candidate himself bragging about it before a laudatory crowd of supporters (video below). Barnes claims he punched Acton because the man questioned his military service.

Mario Barnes' September 2018 mugshot in Tupelo.
Tupelo Police charged Mario Barnes on a misdemeanor drunk in public charge in September 2018.

“This fellow was, just started berating me with questions and accusations,” Barnes says in the video, which shows footage from his campaign announcement speech in February.

“But then we moved on in the conversation to talking about my military service and that time that I spent in the Middle East,” he continues. “He called me a liar again. And he stood up in my face and I popped him in the mouth.”

The crowd then interrupts Barnes with cheers and applause; the candidate smiles.

Barnes is running for Mississippi Senate in District 5, which includes Prentiss County, Tishomingo County, and parts of Itawamba County. Democrat J. P. Wilemon, the incumbent, is not seeking re-election.

‘I Bet He Won’t Question Him Next Time’

The video Barnes posted also shows footage of Tupelo Police officers responding to the incident—and expressing approval of Barnes’ actions.

“The witness over there said that the dude he was with was basically callin’ bullshit on some stuff he done in the military,” an unidentified police officer says in the clip. “So ole dude got up and started whippin’ that ass.”

“I’m good with that!” another office responds.

“That’s what I said, shit!” the first officer replies.

“Rock on, brotha,” the second officer says to Barnes.

“That’s what I said,” the first officer says again.

“I bet he won’t question him next time,” the second officer says. “Might be a little more careful about who he questions in the future.”

“Yeah!” the first officer shouts.

In his campaign announcement, Barnes described the officers as “very encouraging and supportive.”
Video: Mississippi Senate candidate Mario Barnes brags about punching a voter; police cheer.

Deep South Voice reached out to the Barnes campaign and the Tupelo Police Department early Saturday afternoon, but they did not respond by 7 p.m.

Barnes Blasts the ‘Fake News Media’

At the time of the attack, the McDaniel campaign said Barnes was no longer his Tishomingo County chair and was not a paid staffer or volunteer, the Daily Journal reported. McDaniel was not present when the attack happened, they told the Clarion-Ledger.

Just after the incident, Acton sent his story to U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, whom McDaniel was challenging at the time, and her campaign shared the story with the media. McDaniel came in third in that race, and is a state senator from Ellisville.

In a February written announcement, Barnes cited the attack and blamed Hyde-Smith’s campaign and the media for his decision to enter the race.

“After the incident, a statewide campaign splashed his name across Mississippi’s newspapers in an effort to win political points, which in large part drove Barnes to throw his hat into the ring,” it reads.

He also blasted the so-called “fake news media.”

“The media wakes up every day and go to work with the goal of destroying President Trump,” he said at the time. “And believe it or not, there are still folks down in Jackson who agree with them.”

Barnes Called Black Leaders ‘Racist’

Barnes, a former member of the Mississippi Libertarian Party, is running on a typical conservative state Republican agenda: against abortion rights, against limits on gun rights, and against changing the state flag.

In June, Barnes wrote on Facebook that black leaders in Jackson are “racist” for hosting the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, or NBC-LEO, a black leadership conference. He wrote that they should “stop segregating yourselves.”

“It is racist to seek growth for a particular race at the expense of others and this is just another of those racist groups,” he wrote on June 15.

At a press conference announcing the start of the conference, though, Jackson City Councilman and NBC-LEO President De’Keither Stamps explained why it’s necessary, the Jackson Free Press reported this past week.

Barnes is campaigning on his support for the current Mississippi state flag.

“Engage yourself to get the resolve necessary to push forward because right now Black America doesn’t necessarily have a state government to turn to across the country,” Stamps said. “Black America doesn’t have a national government to turn to, so the responsibility of local government is heavier now than it’s been in a long time.”

In a Facebook post in March, Barnes, who is a supporter of the current state flag and its Confederate imagery, wrote that people should “get over” the past and “stop mulling over our history looking for negativity.”

“My mother immigrated to the U.S. in the ’70s from a country we had been at war with less then (sic) 30 years earlier. Her family got over it,” he wrote on Facebook. “My grandfather fought in WWII against that very country. My grandfather got over it.”

The Mississippi State Legislature adopted the current state flag in 1890—at the same time it adopted Jim Crow laws meant to disenfranchise and marginalize former black slaves and their descendants.

But Barnes wrote that he does not owe African Americans whose families descend from slavery or Jim Crow anything.

“The Civil War was a different time. Now is a different time. … I don’t owe anyone anything for past transgressions committed by other people of another time,” he wrote. “Let us be the best we can for Mississippi and stop mulling over history looking for negativity.”

Barnes Joins Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Crusade

And while his own mother is an immigrant, Barnes is a supporter of most of Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

“Mario will fight illegal immigration, amnesty, and introduce legislation to ban sanctuary cities as boldly as our President has done,” the issues page on his campaign site reads. “Every criminal illegal alien arrested should be deported — no questions asked. As Senator, Mario will be a vocal opponent of any form of amnesty, and he won’t back down to establishment pressure.”

He did write on Facebook earlier this year, though, that he is concerned about Trump’s executive order to build a wall along the southern border; a liberal president might use that precedent in the fight against global warming or the national gun violence epidemic, he wrote.

Barnes promises he will be “the Republican to drain the swamp.”

Voters Choose Nominees on Aug. 6

In the Aug. 6 Republican Party primary, Barnes faces three opponents: Patrick Eaton; Mel Greenshaw; and Daniel Sparks. The Democrat in the race, Steve Eaton, faces no primary opponent.

Anyone who registered to vote by July 8 is eligible to vote in either party primary.

Voters will also choose party nominees in all other state House and Senate races, as well as for statewide offices, like governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state, and attorney general.

Voters must bring a state-approved form of photo ID with them to the voting booth in order to cast a ballot.

For more information on voting in Mississippi, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Follow Ashton Pittman on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Email any story tips or comments to [email protected] Candidates and newsworthy organizations in the Deep South are also invited to add this address to their mailing lists.