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Allen on Damage Control After Remarks to Webb Aide

Sen. Allen made controversial comments to S.R. Sidarth, shown at Webb offices in Arlington.
Sen. Allen made controversial comments to S.R. Sidarth, shown at Webb offices in Arlington. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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Sanjay Puri, the leader of the nation's largest Indian political action committee and a longtime Allen supporter, said he will lead a delegation of Indian business executives and community leaders to meet with Allen on Wednesday to express dismay.

"The comments are very insensitive. That's what we want to find out: How can we continue working with him?" Puri said. "The senator has had a very good relationship with our community. I was pretty surprised -- you can say shocked."

Mark Potok, director of the intelligence project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., said it was "simply impossible to believe" that Allen did not intend the comments as a racial insult.

"To me, it looks like yet another case of a politician pandering to the worst instincts in an all-white crowd," Potok said.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who during his campaign last year was dogged by young GOP operatives with video cameras -- usually called trackers -- chided Allen.

"It's insensitive," Kaine said. "Campaigns are tough. But George has been in campaigns. He knows there's trackers. It's just a fact of life. You should just do your thing and not single them out."

Big-time campaigns often assign trackers to shadow their opponents, hoping to catch the candidate making a gaffe or shifting the message to accommodate different audiences. Virginia Republicans have tracked Webb this year. Often, videos can end up in campaign commercials.

That was the job of Sidarth, a University of Virginia senior who attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County. His father, Shekar Narasimhan, is a mortgage banker who has contributed more than $35,000 to Democratic causes in the past decade, according to a review of state and federal campaign finance reports.

Sidarth joined Webb's effort this summer, initially working as a field organizer. Last week, when Allen kicked off his statewide "listening tour," Sidarth was asked to trail Allen, he said. Driving his 1996 Volvo, he followed Allen from Charlottesville to Richmond to the Northern Neck. He said he was "shocked" when Allen began talking about him.

"I didn't believe that he had gone to using race in the political arena," he said.

Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, wrote on the magazine's Web site Tuesday that he did not think Allen was "trying to speak a coded racist language." But Lowry said Allen showed he "has a mean streak."


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