SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — A handful of democratic socialists who support Senator Bernie Sanders for president stalked Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan outside of a campaign event in Champaign on Monday night and attempted to block her car from leaving the event.
In a Facebook Live video, the activists screamed at Londrigan and challenged her to debate Stefanie Smith, a lesser-known candidate running in the primary race in Illinois’ 13th Congressional district.
One agitator yelled, “Will you support Medicare for All?”
Londrigan participated in a candidate forum with Smith two weeks ago in Champaign, and pledged to support her if she won. Smith declined to say if she would support Londrigan if she won.
So far, according to federal campaign finance records, Smith has raised $3,593 from two Illinois donors, and another $3,201 from donors who gave less than the individual reporting threshold of $200. No polling data is available in the primary race.
Smith’s campaign has not yet responded directly to requests for comment about the incident, but she posted a response to her campaign’s Facebook page.
“It was a non-violent protest,” Smith wrote, “and if Betsy can’t handle a few people demanding a conversation about the life or death issues facing many of is [sic] in this district, she should quit now because she will not be able to handle Davis and Trump.”
She also posted a rambling video to her Facebook page appearing to further condone the actions and tactics of her supporters.
“I can’t tell you how much it meant to me when I watched the video of what happened,” Smith said.
“Apparently, people are expecting me to make a statement,” she said launching into a series of attacks against what she perceived as slights from Londrigan’s campaign.
“They’re absolutely the most manipulative, childish, privileged, terrible people I’ve ever met in my life,” Smith said, complaining that, “campaigning has been a nightmare of alienation, hostility, humiliation, gas lighting, and so much abuse.”
Londrigan’s campaign says it has not declined any invitations to debate Smith or any other candidate.
“Betsy travels to public events across Central Illinois to hear and discuss issues, like the high cost of prescription drugs, that working families face every day,” Londrigan’s campaign manager Jacob Plotnick said in an email. “A few aggressive individuals are not going to deter her from continuing to have important conversations with the voters of the 13th district.”
The campaign spokesperson for incumbent Congressman Rodney Davis, Ashley Phelps, condemned the ambush attack in an email.
“In 2017, a Bernie supporter shot at Congressman Davis and other Republicans practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game,” Phelps wrote. “Since then Congressman Davis has spoken out against this kind of violence and the harassment others have experienced, saying it shouldn’t happen to anyone. He wishes more people would speak out against this kind of harassment from Bernie supporters.”
In the 2018 general election, Congressman Davis fired a campaign staffer who was arrested after he confronted Londrigan in a Springfield bar while recording her answers on a cell phone video camera.
Clarification: the incident occurred on Monday, February 24th. The caption in the video is incorrect.