A Democratic candidate for West Virginia’s Senate was brutally beaten Sunday in what police believe was a politically motivated attack, just two days ahead of the primary election.
Richard Ojeda suffered multiple fractures and lacerations and a concussion, in addition to serious swelling to his head and face, during the ambush attack at a cookout, reported The Herald-Dispatch.
The 45-year-old Ojeda was attending the political event at a friend’s house when a man lured him away to put a bumper sticker on his truck, and police said the man struck him in the back of the head when the retired Army engineer officer bent down to place it on the bumper.
The blow knocked Ojeda unconscious, and police said the assailant struck him repeatedly in the face and head with brass knuckles.
The man then tried to run Ojeda over with his truck.
The suspect, later identified as Jonathan Porter, fled after a neighbor spotted him, and he crashed into two ATVs that were blocking his escape.
Porter turned himself in six hours later to an off-duty police officer.
Ojeda was expected to undergo surgery, but he hoped to leave the hospital soon to continue his campaign in the District 7 West Virginia Senate race.
He’s challenging incumbent Art Kirkendoll, a Democrat, in Tuesday’s primary election to represent a district that covers Boone, Lincoln and Logan counties and parts of Mingo and Wayne counties.
Investigators believe Porter attacked Ojeda for political reasons, but his opponent denied any knowledge of the assault.
“I was informed that my opponent was physically assaulted and injured at a political function today,” Kirkendoll said in a statement. “I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned violence. It has no place in our political campaigns or in our communities. My and my family’s thoughts and prayers are with my opponent and his family and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Ojeda posted a photo of himself on Facebook from his hospital bed, saying he would not be intimidated.
“Sorry for the pic but make no mistake, I am now even more dedicated to the cause,” Ojeda wrote. “This doesn’t scare me and I don’t quit! This was premeditated and there was a reason the guy did this. Regardless….if anyone thinks that this will get me to march in line you obviously don’t know me very well.”
Watch this video report posted online by WBAZ-TV: