‘Don’t touch me!’: Watch behind-the-scenes row in California congressional debate (VIDEO)

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                <figcaption>Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) © Shuji Kajiyama / Reuters / <span class="copyright">Free</span></figcaption>
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                        <strong>A TV debate in a race for US congressional seat from California was almost over before it began, after a row between the candidates and their aides over the use of notes saw one of the candidates threatening to walk off.</strong>

        Harley Rouda, the Democrat challenging the incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from Costa Mesa, threatened to leave the debate because his opponent brought notes with him.

Rouda can be heard telling Inside OC host Rick Reiff that “we’re going to have to reschedule,” before the debate, recorded on Monday night. The entire exchange was captured on camera and posted on YouTube.

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“Yeah, this is unfair. So you got him with all of his notes and preparation,” a perturbed Rouda told Reiff, with the exchange getting picked up by open microphones and rolling cameras.

Rouda’s aide approached the desk to tell Reiff that the show had agreed to a debate without notes – which Reiff said had never been the case. Rohrabacher said he needed the notes because of his long record in Congress.

The tightly contested seat in California’s 48th Congressional District is one of at least 23 the Democrats are hoping to flip nationally in order to win control of the US House of Representatives in the November 6 mid-term elections.

When the incumbent’s own aide approached to intervene, the Democrat’s aide said “Don’t touch me!” before pointing at Reiff and saying: “He said specifically no notes.”

“I’ve never told a guest they can’t bring notes if they want to have notes on this set, Harley… and I don’t recall that discussion,” Reiff explained. “That wasn’t one of the ground rules that were laid out.”

Rouda threatened to leave but Reiff appeared unperturbed, saying he would carry on and have a show with just Rohrabacher then. While the Democrat eventually agreed to take part in the debate, his aide, still angry, approached Reiff and whispered, “You’re a hack.”

It is unclear if the participants knew the entire exchange was being recorded, and acted accordingly. The debate will air locally on Sunday.

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