Mic grab in debate goes viral

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A tense moment in a debate between two candidates running for a Byron-area Minnesota House seat has gone viral.

In Rochester Monday, Republican Rep. Duane Quam grabbed the microphone from his female DFL opponent Jamie Mahlberg – and then tossed it back to her when he was done talking.

On Twitter, the 60-second clip is being touted by liberals as a tiny example of the hostility women face from men, linking it to tension playing out nationally between men and women over the #MeToo movement and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

You can watch the whole interaction starting around the two-minute mark:

Mahlberg, a teacher at Rochester Community and Technical College and first-time candidate, said that so far, gender equality hasn’t been a big issue in her campaign. Instead, many of the discussions have been around access to education and health care.

"We've been running this campaign with this notion that opportunity is for everyone,” Mahlberg said. “I was in shock. It was unexpected for that to happen. I was disappointed to be on the receiving end of this behavior by my elected representative.”

Mahlberg said Quam hasn’t apologized directly to her.

In a statement to MPR News, Quam offered his “sincere apologies to Jamie.”

“I want to apologize to Jamie Mahlberg. I respect Jamie and my actions at Monday's forum did not reflect that,” wrote Quam, an engineer who has represented the area since 2010. “Unfortunately, my nerves got the best of me with our timed responses and I was not as graceful as I should have been while we shared the microphone.”

The clip has been picked up by Huffington Post, Bustle and Yahoo News among others, which Mahlberg said has prompted a wave of unexpected donations in the final weeks of the election. She won’t say exactly how much money, but she said it’s been in the thousands with contributions coming from outside the district and outside the state.

Still, it’s not clear that the mic grab will change the dynamics of the race. So far, no outside spending groups have put money into the race, which indicates neither party sees it as competitive.