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Meet the man who sparred with MacArthur and became a YouTube star

The medical assistant and father of two finds himself getting a lot of online attention from fans who want him to run for office. He is not ruling that out.

Geoff Ginter, who challenged Republican US Rep. Tom MacArthur at a May 10 town hall in Willingboro, at home in Pine Beach, NJ.
Geoff Ginter, who challenged Republican US Rep. Tom MacArthur at a May 10 town hall in Willingboro, at home in Pine Beach, NJ.Read moreKevin Riordan

Geoff Ginter speaks in a theatrical simmer, building up steam and almost but not quite boiling over.

The 12 angry minutes that have gained him YouTube fame — fans urging him to run for office, foes branding him a phony for hire — begin with the scrubs-clad medical assistant glowering at Rep. Tom MacArthur during a May 10 town hall in Willingboro.

"Tommy Boy," is how Ginter addresses his congressman, as a  finger-pointing, clenched-fist tour de force, a middle-aged every guy's chance to go toe-to-toe with The Man, blasts off to viral-ville.

"You have ignored us," the Ocean County Democrat tells the Third District Republican, who stays cool throughout (as does Ginter, albeit, at a higher setting).

"Show me what you're made of!"

Born in North Carolina and raised in Montreal — his parents were educators — Ginter, 47, lives with his wife, Colette, and two children in Pine Beach, a borough of about 2,000 on the Toms River.

He's cerebral, eloquent, and blessed with a wry wit,  a  rock drummer, singer-songwriter, college dropout, and former TV news cameraman pretty much the same off-screen as on: earnest and candid, emphatic and dramatic.

"The reason I went to Willingboro, the reason I am doing this interview now, is not because I want to, but because I have a responsibility," Ginter says.

"Since November, I have been waking up."

The election of Donald Trump — the "orange-haired buffoon sitting in the White House," Ginter says on the Willingboro video — only happened because he and other voters "weren't paying attention."

His own awakening started with what he accurately describes as a postelection "rant" (complete with various ALL CAPS interludes, a number of exclamation marks, and an f-bomb or two) on Facebook.

Ginter's 3,948-word expression of the shell-shocked anguish with which the end of 2016 will forever be remembered among liberals drew more than 2,500 comments; a YouTube star was born.

"It's not something I ever [sought]," Ginter says. "It's not my life, except apparently, it is now."

He confronted MacArthur just as the Third District Republican was enjoying his own moment in the spotlight, having authored a surprise compromise to salvage the GOP's "Repeal and replace Obamacare" obsession/legislation.

Ginter derided MacArthur's plan as a "huge pile of excrement" endangering millions of Americans — including Colette, a cancer survivor, and the children, who have what he called preexisting medical conditions.

"You have been the single greatest threat to my family in the entire world," he told MacArthur,  earning raucous applause from the audience and more than 100,000 hits on videos posted online.

Ginter also spoke to a smaller, but similarly enthusiastic, crowd at a "Country Before Party" rally at MacArthur's Marlton office July 5.

"If someone wants me to speak, I'll speak," he notes. "But I'll say what I want to say."

To some of Ginter's fellow progressives, he's a fresh and welcome voice articulating a deep dismay, if not despair, at the turn the nation's politics have taken.

"People have responded to Geoff because what he's saying is true," says Colette Ginter, 47, who like her husband has dual Canadian and American citizenship. "He's saying what people think but don't have the words to say."

Ginter "should run for president," posts an online commenter.  "I would vote for him in a heartbeat," says another.

"He speaks from personal experience," says Steve Stern, a Mount Laurel retiree, activist, and amateur videographer who has done two on-camera interviews with Ginter.

What comes across "is the content of what he says, and the genuineness of his passion," Stern tells me by phone. "He's not putting on airs."

This being 2017, one person's perception of genuineness is another person's detection of fakery. A bearded YouTube dude wearing a black Trump T-shirt brands Ginter "the greatest actor of our time," while others paint him as a liberal, a snowflake, a blah-blah-blah.

Whatever. Although it is worth remembering that in the dozen years since YouTube's debut as a platform for emerging as well as would-be celebrities of all sorts, including political types, others have attracted similar attention.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," who confronted then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, comes to mind. So does 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan ("The rent is too damn high"). And let's not forget William Brown, the Navy SEAL whom Gov. Christie famously referred to as an "idiot" during a Burlington County town hall in 2012.

Ginter acknowledges that his own moment may have "already waned." He says he currently has no plans to enter politics.

But he also says he'd be open to the notion of running for the seat occupied by MacArthur.

When I email Camille Gallo, the congressman's communications director, a request for a comment about Ginter, she cheekily replies, "Who?"

I remind her that he's the guy who called her boss "Tommy Boy" — twice — and her response once again is "Who?"

And when I ask if I can use "who?" as her official comment, Gallo says, "Sure."

Sounds to me as if somebody has gotten under the seemingly unflappable MacArthur's skin.

Who knows?

I'm going to stay tuned.