Democrats accuse former governor George Allen, the leading Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and his staff of removing their tracker or asking him to leave from at least 10 public campaign events.
Alan Piracha, hired by the Democratic Party of Virginia in May to track Republicans and help with the party’s new media, primarily follows Allen.
Trackers, outfitted with videocameras and computers, have been a staple of modern campaigns for years.
“Virginians want to hear a credible plan for creating jobs, reducing our deficit, and getting the economy moving,’’ said Brian Coy, a Democratic party spokesman. “It's hard to believe Allen's handlers would be shutting the doors and closing the blinds on his so-called public events if that's really what Allen was discussing.’’
An Allen spokesman said the campaign had done nothing wrong.
“George Allen has been doing events and fundraisers for state and local candidates all throughout Virginia and there’s nothing unusual about a campaign or organization asking a Democrat staffer to leave, whether they are a tracker or not,’’Allen spokesman Bill Riggs said.
A pair of trackers have come from outside groups, including American Bridge 21st Century, a new Democratic organization, also have tracked Allen on occasion, looking for gotcha moments.
Allen, who was notoriously caught on video calling a young Indian-American tracker “macaca” during his 2006 race against Sen. Jim Webb (D), has used the trip of trackers in fundraising appeals for his campaign.
The Democratic party says the 10 Allen events occurred between May 2 and Sept. 10, and that all have been listed on his public schedule including a YMCA tour, chamber of commerce lunches and Republican breakfasts.
Piracha has been asked to leave by Allen campaign officials or organizers, guided to the door or told it was a private event even though it was on a public schedule, Coy said.
On May 2, a Staunton storeowner asked Piracha to leave after Allen told him “He’s with the Democrats,” he said.
Republicans said some of the events were private, and in Staunton, Allen was merely responding to the storeowner’s question.
The Republican Party of Virginia has had a tracker following former governor Tim Kaine, the likely Democratic nominee for Senate, since the summer.
GOP party spokesman Garren Shipley said their tracker has not had trouble videotaping Kaine, except for at non-public events.