Video: Barroom fight begins GOP leadership weekend on Mackinac Island

Posted at 9:42 AM, Sep 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-18 17:45:00-04

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — A Grand Rapids political consultant, now director and chief strategist for the national Rand Paul campaign, claims a top official for the Marco Rubio campaign punched him Thursday night at a bar on the island, which is hosting the biennial GOP Leadership Conference.

John Yob, the national political director for the Rand Paul campaign, posted on Facebook early Friday morning he'd been punched in the face inside the bar by a man he said is the deputy campaign manager for Rubio, a Florida senator.

The Facebook post is below:

Last night I went to a bar on Mackinac Island for the GOP Mackinac Conference. I ran into a guy named Rich Beeson, who frankly I didn't even know who it was at first because he isn't relevant in our political world. Anyway, he is Marco Rubio's national campaign manager. He literally physically assaulted me by punching me in the face. The state police are looking for him. I have it on video, from multiple angles. This will play out in the national media in the next few hours.

Later the same morning, Yob posted he was calling on Marco Rubio "to fire Rich Beeson effective immediately."

Brandon Hall, a blogger for West Michigan Politics, posted early Friday morning on his website he witnessed the punch, one he said appeared unprovoked.

As I was sitting at the bar talking to someone at Horn’s in Mackinac Island Thursday night, I witnessed Beeson suddenly, out of nowhere, approach one of Rand Paul’s advisers, John Yob-unprovoked-and try to hit him. Beeson missed a full on shot but still struck Yob’s in the face with a powerful blow near the jaw.

Hall claims before the Rubio staffer threw the punch he was heard trying to whip up votes on behalf of Rubio for the Mackinac Straw Poll which is expected to be conducted later Saturday.

Hall said he recorded part of the incident but was working to get higher quality video elsewhere.

Mackinac Island Police Chief Brett Riccinto told FOX 17 the department did receive a complaint about a possible physical altercation which took place late Thursday night at Horn's Gaslight Bar and Restaurant. Riccinto said he was waiting to see video of the incident himself before making any comment.

A representative for the Rubio campaign was not immediately available for comment. But emails between Yob and Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan obtained by FOX 17 seem to indicate the Rubio camp thought the entire fiasco was initially a joke.

"Well that if you were talking sh** I'm glad he did," Sullivan wrote in his response to Yob's email to him about the punch. "Besides. We need more space and wanna take over your townhouse when Rand is done."

Sullivan responded early Friday morning apologizing, saying "I assumed you were kidding when you sent that last night. Guess I was wrong."

Yob did not speak to FOX 17 on camera Friday but did later respond with a statement saying he appreciated Sullivan's "change of heart" and that it was "understandable he would've initially thought it was too crazy to actually be true."

"The Rubio campaign is not to blame," Yob said. " Today I hope that he and Senator Rubio will take action on this matter as the state police investigate."

The Michigan Republican Party is hosting Paul and five other presidential candidates at the Grand Hotel this weekend for its biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.