Last week, David Craig was critical of Anthony Brown’s campaign tactics – specifically hiring a tracker to follow Doug Gansler around. I will provide some back story on the issue before going into details about the seeming hypocrisy of the Craig campaign’s use of trackers.
The Baltimore Sun reported on Craig’s criticisms:
Republican gubernatorial candidate David R. Craig on Monday criticized Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown’s use of a “tracker” to videotape Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s public appearances, calling the practice a way for Brown to “trash his opponent” in the Democratic race.
Craig, the Harford County executive, said he has never used trackers in his campaigns. His comments came in response to a Baltimore Sun article on Brown’s tactics.
Craig called the practice — common in campaigns around the country — “a sign that candidates are too weak to run on their own record.” He said campaigns use trackers to seek “gotcha” moments to use in negative advertising.
He said in a statement issued by his campaign that Brown’s team “has an immediate, obvious and clear opportunity to strike a more positive tone in the 2014 election by stating publicly that they will end the practice of tracking their opponents.”
“There is nothing transparent about recording and selectively editing your opponents’ comments, packaging the story and shopping it around to various press outlets,” he said.
Jim Pettit, a spokesman for Craig, said he could not say how the campaign would react if his candidate and Brown end up as rivals in the general election. He said Craig would not be too upset if the tracker was recording only him but would have objections if family members were videotaped.
Brian Griffiths responded the same day saying:
As the story notes, both Craig and fellow Republican Charles Lollar oppose the use of trackers on the campaign trail and will not use them. Which is a terrible idea.
Trackers are nothing new in Maryland politics. Then Congressman Bob Ehrlich was being tracked during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Both the Ehrlich and O’Malley campaigns used trackers in the 2010 campaign, eliciting even a write up on FoxNews.com about the practice. Their use in politics, both at the national and the statewide level goes back far earlier than even these instances. It’s as common a campaign practice in 2014 as roboalls, microtargeting, and phone-banking.
To not track an opposing candidate and to publicly say that you aren’t tracking a candidate is ceding crucial tactical ground to the opposition.
Griffiths sums it up:
I can understand the frustration that a candidate might have with using trackers, but unfortunately in this day and age it is political malpractice to not be using them in a major statewide race…
I personally went to political events in the 1990s in South Carolina to obtain information on opposition candidates. In one instance I was trying to get audio of a “gotcha” moment on a specific issue. Besides the specific examples in Maryland over the past 11 years, the practice goes back even farther and is just smart politics, especially with today’s technology. As Griffiths also said, you should have someone recording all of your candidate’s appearances anyway and that can be used to refute any creative editing of what an opposition tracker might film.
Early last week, I asked Craig campaign spokesman Jim Pettit if the campaign could confirm or deny reports I received that the campaign has sent people to observe Lollar and George campaign events. I asked how that was any different than the use of trackers Craig had criticized. I got a terse reply of, “We don’t use trackers” and an offer to follow up on it via telephone if I wished.
Even though the response really didn’t answer my question, I got busy working on other things and thought little of it until later in the week when I got another unsolicited email from Pettit, that was also sent to other bloggers. It was this statement from the Craig campaign re: trackers:
“The David Craig campaign has not sent trackers to rival campaigns. Campaign personnel attend political events where other candidates may or may not also be attending which has nothing to do with tracking. So-called ‘trackers’ record audio and video and their sole purpose is to look for potential gaffes and are used by the Anthony Brown campaign because they are obviously concerned that they can not win the election based on his governing record.”
Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland wrote about the issue again and shared the above Craig statement as well as reporting some new facts:
Multiple sources though have suggested that the Craig campaign did indeed use trackers, alleging that it happened on at least two occasions; once at a Charles Lollar event in College Park, and another at a Delegate Ron George event in Montgomery County.
The sources did not indicate in what capacity the alleged trackers were attending the event, and whether or not the trackers were in possession of recording equipment, thus making this a he-said/she-said type of affair at the moment. But it is interesting that word started percolating so quickly alleging that the Craig campaign had used trackers.
I heard specifically from a source close to the Lollar campaign that a tracker, who was a David Craig staffer, was present at the Lollar campaign kickoff event on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at the Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland in College Park. I’ve also heard from a source close to the Ron George campaign about a tracker being present at events George was at, including one event in Kensington. George campaign sources also tell me of more recent events where a Craig campaign tracker showed up.
It’s no big deal if you use a tracker to track your opposition in my opinion. However, if you denounce someone else for using a tracker when your campaign has been using trackers, then that makes you a hypocrite at best.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.