Politics & Government

NC congressman’s office reports Twitter user to police, triggering investigation

A low-profile race in North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District has turned nasty on social media, leading to an investigation of a challenger’s vocal supporter.

Republican Rep. Mark Walker, chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee in the U.S. House, posted a Facebook message to hit back at false allegations he said have been circulated by Democratic challenger Ryan Watts and one of his most ardent supporters on Twitter.

Walker’s staff also reported the Twitter user to U.S. Capitol Police.

“After a number of threatening messages, including bombing references, mentions of Walker and his family, and attempts to locate the school his daughter attends, our staff sent the message contents to the Capitol Police,” Jack Minor, Walker’s campaign spokesman, said in a text message. “Capitol Police decided to investigate the threat.”

Several people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, were injured in a June 2017 shooting in Alexandria, Va., while House Republicans practiced for the congressional baseball game. Walker was at the practice earlier in the day, but had left before the shooting.

Andrew Cabaccang, who is from Raleigh but is currently living in Montana, said in a phone interview with McClatchy that it’s his Twitter account and that he was visited by the Sanders County (Mont.) Sheriff’s Office on behalf of the FBI on Sept. 19.

Minor said the Capitol Police told the congressman’s office that it had located and contacted Cabaccang. Calls to Capitol Police and the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office were not returned.

Cabaccang tweets often about his support for the Watts campaign and uses an image of Watts as his Twitter background image.

He has used the “bomb” emoji in some tweets. In one tweet, he sought out information on where Walker’s daughter attended school, asking if it was a public or private school.

He called the police report an “abuse of power” by Walker.

“It’s just petty, petty, petty. I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Cabaccang, who asked why Walker wouldn’t first report him to Twitter or block or mute him on the platform rather than call the authorities.

‘Lies, allegations and foul language’

Cabaccang said he wanted to help a Democratic candidate after the 2016 election and chose Watts after looking at his platform. He said he’s trying to “goad” Walker to agree to a debate with Watts.

In some tweets, he has hinted that Walker, who is married and has three children, is involved in an affair with another man. Walker decided he had to respond.

“The lies, allegations and foul language being spread by my opponent and his self-proclaimed ‘wingman’ have forced me to engage,” Walker wrote in his Facebook post, which included screen shots.

In a phone interview, Watts denied that his campaign has done anything like that and said he has refrained from any attacks on Walker as a person or his family. He said his campaign sent one inappropriate tweet because of a typo, meaning to call Walker “an empty suit,” but instead called Walker “an empty s--t.” The tweet was eventually deleted.

Watts said Walker was trying to lump his campaign together with tweets from a Twitter user he does not know. Watts said Tuesday that he does not know Cabaccang’s last name. Watts said he has communicated with him only through Twitter and that he has asked him to take down some posts about Walker. Cabaccang said he has never met Watts and has only communicated electronically with him. He said Watts has turned down some offers of help.

Cabaccang tweets under the handle @allcapstweetx. His profile says he is a “HUGE FAN OF RYAN WATTS. NOT ON CAMPAIGN STAFF OR PAYROLL.”

“The truth will always come out. And given the @FBI has already paid me a visit, I HAVE ZERO TO LOSE,” Cabaccang said in a tweet about Walker’s response.

Watts said the Walker campaign was “throwing our campaign under the bus even though there’s no merit to it. I’m not surprised Walker and his campaign would stoop to this level, and we’re trying to rise above it.”

But Walker’s campaign said that Watts has elevated Cabaccang by the sheer number of retweets it has given him. In an interview with Millennial Politics Podcast, the host referred to Cabaccang as Watts’ “wingman.” In a tweet, Watts said, “Drew is a very loyal follower! I appreciate his support.”

Walker is seeking his third term representing the 6th District, which includes most of Guilford County and all of Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Lee, Person, Randolph and Rockingham counties. Watts, 28, is a graduate of East Chapel Hill High and UNC-Chapel Hill. He lives in Burlington and works for Deloitte.

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Walker won the district in 2016 with 59.2 percent of the vote. Though several GOP-held districts in North Carolina are considered possible pick-ups for Democrats, the 6th district has not been considered one of those battleground races by national political pundits.

Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC