FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — Veteran West Virginia Del. Mike Caputo, who was criminally charged after a recent controversy involving racist signs at the state Capitol, announced Tuesday he will seek a state Senate seat next year.
The Democrat announced his candidacy for the state Senate’s 13th District at an event in the north-central part of the state. Caputo has served 23 years in the West Virginia House of Delegates and was previously the vice president of the United Mine Workers of America’s International District 31.
He promised to be a candidate for working people while working in bipartisan fashion ”side-by-side with both business and labor.”
Caputo was charged with misdemeanor battery in September for kicking a door into a statehouse staffer and elbowing a delegate after getting angry about racist signs at the Capitol that falsely linked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Police said Caputo was "talking loud and saying nasty things" as he walked up to the chamber and pushed one of the doors into a House doorman. The staffer sought medical attention at a hospital, according to a criminal complaint complaint. It is unclear if the doorman was injured.
Caputo then pushed Del. Sharon Malcolm with his elbow after telling her to get out of his way, police said. She initially said she wasn't hurt but then said she experienced pain.
The displays were posted outside the House chamber on “WV GOP Day” in March. The group whose name appeared on a sign next to the display, ACT for America, has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization issued a statement saying it was not behind the images after they were circulated on social media.
"No wonder why I am on the 'Hitlist' of a domestic terrorist and 'Assassinate Ilhan Omar' is written on my local gas stations," Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, wrote on Twitter at the time in response to the signs. "Look no further, the GOP's anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them!"
The state Republican party later issued a statement that it does not endorse "speech that advances intolerant and hateful views."
Caputo has apologized for the incident though he says he doesn’t believe he committed a crime. A court hearing in his case is scheduled Thursday in Charleston. His attorney declined to comment.
The seat Caputo is seeking is currently held by Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, who is not running again.