By TOM MORTON
Star-Tribune staff writer
The Libertarian challenger for Wyoming's lone U.S. House seat says Rep. Barbara Cubin offended him by uttering a slur related to his physical disability.
Thomas Rankin said Cubin [Republican candidate] approached him after a campaign debate on Sunday and said, "If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you across the face."
The Cubin campaign did not deny the remark, but a spokesman for the six-term congresswoman said Rankin started the exchange.
"He misrepresented her and insulted her integrity during the debate," Cubin spokesman Eric Cullen said, reading from a prepared statement.
"When she approached him after the debate about it, he said something not very complimentary. She responded. It was a private conversation. She's over it."
Rankin, however, said he said nothing to Cubin before her remark, and he doesn't consider the issued closed.
"There's no way to undo what she has done," he said. "That shows her insensitivity to people with disabilities."
Cullen had no further comment.
Democrat challenger Gary Trauner's spokeswoman, Linda Stoval, declined to comment about the incident.
The incident occurred after the hour-long debate sponsored by Wyoming Public Television, Wyoming Public Radio and KTWO-TV.
Rankin, who lives in Casper, had criticized the six-term incumbent for taking $22,520 from a political action committee of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who is under indictment in Texas for conspiring to violate campaign contribution laws.
After the cameras and lights were shut off, Cubin walked on the stage behind Trauner and then to Rankin, who was still sitting at the table, Rankin said.
Rankin, who is disabled with multiple sclerosis and uses an electric wheelchair, had not moved yet.
While his aide Jeremy Moniz was helping him, Moniz heard Cubin's comment, too.
"She came right up and said it," Moniz said.
Rankin didn't say anything to Cubin before she confronted him, he said.
"It took me totally off guard," he said. "I said, 'Barbara, if you feel the need to slap me, go right ahead.'"
Cubin then turned around and walked away.
Rankin called her comment an inappropriate slur to the disabled. Cubin had not contacted him to apologize, Rankin said.