Remember S.D. Sidarth?
That’s the then-20-year-old who was tracking U.S. Sen. George Allen in 2006 when, during a campaign stop in far Southwest Virginia, Allen turned to Sidarth, twice referred to him as “Macaca” and told him “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”
The resulting flurry derailed Allen’s campaign. Many believe it ultimately allowed challenger Jim Webb to defeat him in what become a close, down-to-the-wire race.
That campaign in many ways marked the rise of the tracker as a political force. Since then trackers have become a ubiquitous and mostly accepted presence during campaign events.
Last week, however, saw the re-emergence of the “tracker as story” meme when 5th District Democratic challenger John Douglass whacked a Republican tracker during an event in Farmville:
Justin Higgins (about whom we previously wrote here) blogged about the incident, concluding, “Hitting the camera is a big no-no. Douglass is running against Republican Robert Hurt, who picked up the seat in 2010. Outbursts like this aren’t liable to help the Democrat’s chances.”
Now, other Republicans are responding.
Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, issued a statement, as did Virginia Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County.
You can read those after the jump.
What do you think? Did Douglass screw up by whacking the camera? Or was he within his rights? What’s the ultimate impact of this incident on the campaign?
– Mason Adams
Here’s the statement from Mullins:
“It is disappointing and discouraging to see such poor behavior from someone seeking to represent the people of the 5th District. We expect those who wish to represent us in Congress to hold themselves to a higher standard – and striking out at a young staffer trying to do his job falls far short of the mark.
“In the digital age, we have come to expect that campaigns will film public events, and Mr. Douglass’ campaign is no different. Mr. Douglass sends a tracker to many events and they are always treated with respect. We implore him to show our staff the same respect and at the very least, apologize for this deplorable action, not issue a half-hearted statement of ‘regret.’”
And here’s the statement from Stanley:
“The bullying tactics recently displayed by John Douglass are unacceptable. As a public figure, we come to expect that we will come under more scrutiny than private citizens. It is incumbent upon us to handle ourselves with class and dignity if we wish to have the honor of representing our fellow citizens in government. Mr. Douglass showed neither class nor dignity when he decided to single out a young man trying to do his job. I call for John Douglass to apologize immediately to the young staffer that he so aggressively lashed out against. A public forum is just that, public. And for him to have acted in the way he did is despicable and frankly, calls into question his judgment. If he cannot handle the pressures of being filmed, how can we expect him to handle the pressures of representing the state’s largest congressional district in Washington. ”