By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Sean Kedzie says he couldn’t breathe. His vision was quickly dimming.
Just before he passed out, Kedzie said one of his two male attackers released him from a chokehold in his own front yard.
“It was right at the last second. Who knows … I have no clue what they were capable of,” the 22-year-old Whitewater resident told Wisconsin Reporter Tuesday.
“Those guys don’t realize I could have been put in a coma, I could have been killed. Things have been taken to whole new level,” he added.
Whitewater police continued their investigation into Kedzie’s report that two men attacked him early Friday morning at his home after he confronted them about stealing his Romney/Ryan campaign yard sign.
Kedzie said he confronted the two men — both described as white, one suspect about 6-foot, 195 pounds — and in their early 20s. The man who Kedzie said took the sign set it down in his yard and, before he knew it, the other man was attacking him. Kedzie said the men wrestled him to the ground, put him in a chokehold and screamed, “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan suck!” and other politically charged invectives.
“It went from zero to 60 with the flip of the switch,” he said. “I never really stood a chance. These guys must have had in their minds what they were going to do when I walked up to them.”
He’s not your average alleged assault victim. He’s the son of state Sen. Neal Kedzie, of Elkhorn, a prominent, outspoken Republican who has served in the Senate for the past decade.
And Neal Kedzie is no stranger to attacks he said were perpetrated under political animosity.
His Elkhorn home has been the subject of several acts of vandalism, police confirm. The senator said he has had to clean dead fish and nails off his yard and driveway on several occasions.
“I have a flat tire on my car in my driveway right now because someone threw nails,” Neal Kedzie told Wisconsin Reporter.
The Kedzies told their story Tuesday, they said, in hopes of ending what they see as escalating political-related violence in a deeply divided battleground state.
“I don’t get it. I’ve been in politics for 25 years, both in local and state politics, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” the senator said. “It’s been boiling up across Wisconsin for some time, and I suppose it was inevitable that someone was going to get hurt. Unfortunately, it was my son.”
The senator, too, condemned commenters on conservative radio, Twitter and Facebook feeds in recent days urging violent responses to his son’s attack.
“Violence only begets violence,” he said. “We will beat you with intellect, not with our fists.”
There have been sporadic reports of assaults and vandalism this heated election year. In January, a West Bend man was arrested on charges of defacing recall petitions for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, for instance.
There were several reports of vandalism, threats and assaults at the state Capitol during last year’s mass protests over Walker’s proposed changes to public-sector collective bargaining.
A Marquette Law School poll earlier this year found nearly a third of respondents said they had stopped talking to each over Wisconsin’s gubernatorial recall election.
But Sean Kedzie said politically driven hatred is getting out of control.
“I never expected something like this to happen. It’s frightening. People are frightened about this,” he said.
He said the day after he was attacked, someone pilfered his Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate sign. The next night, someone ran off with his “Stand With Walker” sign.
Whitewater police said the reported incident involving Sean Kedzie remains under investigation and that it could be sometime before information is released. They would not specify when.
The younger Kedzie said police have told him the same.
Asked if there was any previous event that could have precipitated the attack, Sean Kedzie said he had never seen the men before Friday morning, that the assault caught him “off guard.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s running mate, called Sean Kedzie Tuesday afternoon to express his concern.
“He said he was thinking about me and that I would be in his prayers. He said he wanted to call and see how I was doing and he wanted to thank me for not backing down and for not being intimidated by these guys,” Sean Kedzie said.
Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brad Courtney in a statement said the “senseless and brutal act of violence perpetrated against Sean Kedzie for his political belief is a frightening turn of events that must end now. No one deserves to have their safety threatened due to their political leanings.
“This cowardly act only highlights the rancor and vilification that flows from the fringes of the political spectrum. These actions should not and will not be tolerated.”
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]