House candidate criticized after joking about opponent's wife

Businessman Mac Warner (R) is a leading challenger to national GOP favorite David McKinley in Rep. Alan Mollohan’s (D-W.Va.) district. On Friday night, at a forum of primary candidates, Warner brought up fellow GOP candidate Tom Stark’s wife in a way that he probably wishes he hadn’t.
 
Speaking to the crowd, Warner recounted a conversation he had with Mrs. Stark, in which (according to Warner) she jokingly said the crowd at the event would be on her husband’s side.
 
“I’m approaching the facility, and Mary tells me that I might as well just turn around and get in my truck and go on back down the road,” Warner said. “I said, ‘Why’s that?’ And she said, ‘Mac, I’ve dated about half the men in the room.’ She said, ‘This is my territory.’”
 
The line got plenty of laughs at the time, but Stark’s wife wasn’t one of them. Those present say she took exception to the line and made that known to Warner.
 
And her husband still denies she ever said anything like that to Warner.
 
“It was intended as a joke, and it didn’t go over very well,” Tom Stark said.
 
McKinley, a former state legislator, said the comment was out of line.
 
“Obviously, I thought what he said was very inappropriate, but I'd really rather not say anything else about it,” he said.
 
Patty Levenson, another GOP candidate who was present at the event, defended Warner.
 
“I don’t think it was meant, form my perspective, to cause any harm,” she said. “I think it was done in jest.”
 
Stark and Warner’s campaign both said the issue has been smoothed over, with Stark saying his wife was happy with the resolution. But Stark still denied that his wife ever made the comments that Warner attributed to her.
 
Warner spokesman Anthony Conchel said the situation was “kind of a silly thing.” But he stood by Warner’s assertion that Stark’s wife made the initial comment to Warner.
 
He said Warner is known to be a gentleman and that he meant nothing derogatory.
 
“There was no malice,” Conchel said.