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GOP fireworks: Mrs. Wardynski tells Strong ‘I’m coming after you’

HUNTSVILLE — The fireworks during Tuesday’s GOP debate between Dale Strong and Casey Wardynski didn’t end when the cameras and lights were turned off in the WHNT-TV studios.

The two candidates are in a primary runoff for the Fifth Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Mo Brooks. And there is no love lost between Strong, the Madison County Commission chairman, and Wardynski, a former Huntsville City Schools superintendent.

The candidates’ combative tones, which had been expressed largely through television ads throughout the race, were on display during the primetime debate hosted by WHNT News 19.

After the debate, a verbal exchange took place between Strong and his opponent’s wife,  Karen Wardynski. The exchange was confirmed through multiple sources.

According to the sources, Mrs. Wardynski approached Strong while the candidates were leaving the stage and said, “I’m coming after you. I’m going to get you.”

During the debate, Wardynski was questioned about his relationship with his wife, before they were married. The school district awarded a contract to Pinnacle Schools, which then-Karen Lee served as CEO before marrying Wardynski.

According to Wardynski, understanding that their relationship would be perceived as a conflict of interest, he addressed the issue with school district leadership.

“[I] brought in the [school] board attorney on Aug. 7, and I told him I thought I should resign, that if I had a relationship with her that would be improper,” said Wardynski in response to the debate moderator’s question. “He assured me I didn’t need to do that. And he would contact the ethics folks. … The following Monday, I talked to every board member at coffee and told them the same thing.”

“I thought I should resign since I supervised her. It would create an ethical challenge that I didn’t want to have. They said ‘No, no stay.’ On the 13th of September, my attorney wrote a letter and hand carried it and never got an answer. So on the 15th, one month in, I resigned because I thought it would create an ethical problem.”

Strong took the opportunity to criticize Wardynski over the perceived ethics dilemma.

He said “some 800 [teachers] that were relieved of their jobs that did a lot less than what he did with this Pinnacle contract where he was getting personal sexual gratification from that contract.”

Later in the debate, Wardynski called Strong a “scumbag.”

“He accused me of taking sexual favors from somebody to do work. You know, that’s a scumbag in my book,” Wardynski said of Strong. “This fellow has never served his country under the uniform or under the flag. I’ve got three kids serving around the world. They get the list of this garbage. They don’t appreciate it.”

In response to Mrs. Wardynski’s “I’m coming after you” warning, Strong countered, “OK, no-bid contract.”

Paul Caron, WHNT’s news director, said the candidates did not shake hands after the debate.

The Republican primary runoff election is June 21. The GOP nominee will face Democrat Kathy Warner-Stanton in the general election Nov. 8. Warner-Stanton defeated Charlie Thompson for the Democratic nomination for the District 5 congressional seat with more than 57% of the vote May 24.

(Courtesy of Yellowhammer News)

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