Mark Dayton says GOP ‘trackers’ disrupt his campaign; GOP reply: ‘Welcome to real world’

Abby Michaud
Abby Michaud

Abby the Republican Tracker was being tracked.

A gaggle of TV camera operators captured her every move as if she were Lindsay Lohan in retreat and not a proud Tom Emmer supporter. Abby the Tracker scurried out of the front door of the Capitol this afternoon, an instant, sure-to-be-fleeting mini-celebrity in the YouTube-driven world of politics and visual campaign etiquette. It was all great television — film at 5, 6 and 10.

Abby (who refused to give her last name today but who was identified as Abby Michaud in an earlier Star Tribune story) and her tripod-toting ilk were the targets of DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton today at a news conference in which Dayton lashed out, claiming the GOP was “harassing” him and preventing people at last week’s Game Fair event from greeting him at his booth. He called their behavior “disruptive” and “unprecedented.”

Dayton video tracks trackers
In a video, which is now posted on Dayton’s campaign website, Dayton described what seems to be two Republican trackers — including Abby and a fellow name Jordan — within a few arms’ lengths of Dayton. He said their actions were “intimidating” people who wanted to talk with him and “blocking people from accessing me … I think Minnesotans want a fair and decent campaign. I think Minnesotans know this is an unfair political tactic … This is beneath the dignity of Minnesotans.”

While some political operatives might have been slapping their foreheads and wondering what decade Dayton was living in, the candidate’s concerns naturally flow from his effort last week, when he called for an end to attack ads.

His call came one day after the Minnesota Republican Party first aired a commercial calling Dayton “erratic” and “too risky” for Minnesota.

But it also came after an independent organization, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, had launched anti-Emmer ads even before the Aug. 10 primary. Indeed, a full half-hour after Abby the Tracker dramatically exited the Capitol surrounded by mini-cams, the Alliance announced the airing of a fourth ad, this one defining Emmer as someone who missed 142 votes in the Legislature in the 2010 session.

Of course, this one’s not from Dayton’s campaign, but from a friendly support group, which is heavily funded by his former wife and some family members. And, of course, it’s aimed at Emmer’s record, not name-calling.

The last straw
Campaign carpet-bombing is an issue that is genuinely important to Dayton. According to one staffer, the conversation about Emmer’s trackers has been going on for a while within the Dayton campaign, but the Game Fair incident was the final straw.

There was internal discussion about whether to hold today’s news conference and just how it might be received, but, in the end, there was agreement that Dayton should speak out.

His protest today became all-too-easy fodder for the state GOP, which is particularly adept at rapid response and laser-like talking points. First of all, GOP spokesman Mark Drake — who happened to be tracking Dayton’s news conference in Room 125 of the Capitol — disputed Dayton’s claims that the GOP trackers were disruptive or too close. Second of all, Drake couldn’t avoid dropping the words “erratic,” “weird” and “bizarre” into just about every sentence, or in barking (again) about the overdone story that Dayton left his dogs in the car last week during the news conference about negative campaigning.

Even as Dayton began pointing out on a screen his view of GOP trackers’ actions — much like a football coach would show an end-around to his team — GOP Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb was tweeting his fingers off to his 1,669 followers:
. “Remember folks – @Mark_Dayton‘s family has funded attack ads against @TomEmmer that used tracking footage from DFLers
. MN GOP trackers have been on @Mark_Dayton for months — he’s only complaining now because the pressure is getting to him.
. MN is facing serious problems, but @Mark_Dayton’s “important” press event is about political trackers!

And then there was the inevitable canine tweet: @Mark_Dayton is complaining about tracking today because he was caught leaving his dogs in his car in 100+ degree heat for an hour…

After Dayton showed the video, his campaign manager Dana Anderson released letters (PDF) she sent to GOP party chairman Tony Sutton and Emmer campaign manager Cullen Sheehan. She complained that GOP trackers created “as much congestion as possible” around Dayton at the Anoka event and that some citizens “thought we were causing this problem, not you.”

Mark Dayton complained today that GOP trackers were stepping over the bounds of propriety in following him around.
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
Mark Dayton complained today that GOP trackers were stepping over the bounds of propriety in following him around.

The GOP trackers weren’t wearing clothing or hats or badges identifying them, she wrote, pledging ” that neither our campaign nor the DFL Party will engage in any ‘tracking’ of your candidate. We will, along with the press, videotape public forums and debates — but we will not trail your candidate’s every movement with a camera in his face. I hope you will join in this pledge.”

Tracker ban gets no traction
Good luck. Unfortunately, that’s not about to happen.
GOP chairman Tony Sutton said: If Mark Dayton can’t handle a 22-year-old with a camera recording his public statements, how can he possibly stand up to the rigors of being governor?”

A DFL spokeswoman said her party “might” consider wearing identifying T-shirts or something or other when it tracks Emmer, but … ahem, we’ll get back to you on that.

And Emmer campaign manager Sheehan said his campaign doesn’t track, just the GOP. He added: “Tracking candidates, for better or worse, has been a part of elections for over a decade. Tom Emmer will be talking about how we create jobs, improve our economy and reform our education system regardless of who is watching, listening or recording his campaign.”

Tracking is about “gotcha.” The most famous tracking moment of all-time — the Hall of Fame snippet of video gotchas — came during the 2006 U.S. Senate re-election campaign of Virginia Republican George Allen when he was caught making a racially insensitive remark, calling an opposition tracker of Indian descent a “macaca.”

Seeya later, Sen. Allen.

Earlier this summer, the Democratic National Committee urged all its supporters to become citizen trackers.   

Unilateral dis-camera-ment is not about to happen any time soon, even if Sen. Dayton’s sensibilities are legitimate.

“I’m sure Mark Dayton would like to hide from the voters for the next three months,” said the GOP’s Drake, “but that’s just not gonna happen. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

These days in campaigns, even kitchens may have video cameras and microphones.

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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/16/2010 - 05:59 pm.

    Dayton has a just beef.

    Look at the video.

    The trackers are clearly inserting themselves in a position where interaction of people with Dayton is prevented. Some of them are obviously moving away because they are under the impression that someone – perhaps legitimately – is taking pictures.

    There is a difference between a webcam in your kitchen and someone sticking a photographic device in your face! This does, indeed, qualify as an attempt to intimidate and harass and is not worthy of the US political system. If the GOP thinks these kind of stunts are going to appeal to the voters, they are mistaken. This is simply a continuation of the rude and crude behavior of our current governor, he of the “cheap shots are cheap, but they aren’t free” remark.

    Tracking is fine if you keep your distance and don’t interfere. Unfortunately the GOP has crossed that line with this behavior. If they can’t behave themselves then perhaps it would be best for all candidates agree to voluntarily drop this intimidating behavior.

    Of course people like Brodkorb love this because it keeps attention off of Emmer’s lack of specifics on how to meet the six million dollar deficit.

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 08/16/2010 - 06:11 pm.

    I’m with Dayton on this totally. Trackers are intimidating. They don’t always get that they are supposed to lay back. I think if some young Republican or DFL aide is at the back of the room, covering a speech, great, but I remember how I tried to do my own little 1-man picket walk with my kids once when Norm Coleman came to my local diner, to protest his position at the time against requiring the CIA to adhere to the Army Field Manual during interrogations. Anyway, this local GOP operative just took his camera and positioned it about 10 inches from my face and kept saying who are you why are you hear, etc. They are creepy. They think politics is sport.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/16/2010 - 06:37 pm.

    It’s called winning for the sake of winning.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/16/2010 - 06:58 pm.

    Here’s what the cops do, they walk up and shine a flashlight in the camera lens and hold it there until you back off. I say if these guys become a problem do what the cops do. They have a right record, you have right to shine a flashlight.

  5. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 08/16/2010 - 06:59 pm.

    (To the tune of “How much is that dogie in the window)

    How hot is that doggy in the back seat?

    The one with the “saggely” tongue.

    How hot is that dogie in the back seat?

    It sure seems that doggy looks pale.

    I suspect that at the Game Fair Dayton and Emmer were busy enough so it was a basically a “meet and greet”. Not a lot of time for deep policy discussion with a major candidate. There are also “tracker-trackers” so if a private citizen asked to be anon and the opposition tracker refuses to adapt them that is taped. They can shoot from the back of the citizens head so you have a voice and the candidates face. I’ve been to activities where candidates have had spare time. The trackers complied with the back of the head approach.

    At the Game Fair you can bring dog on a leash so it is sort of (game) “dogstock”. It’s been a while but I recall fenced in “corrals” where people can compete in “smart dog tricks”. An example is “heel then fetch” where you tell the dog to “heel” throw and object and the dog tries to stayed “heeled” until you say “fetch”. (tougher than it looks).

    Training of a pet relies on positive reinforcement and good treatment. People with game dogs tend to be very adamant about protection and treatment of “companion animals”, especially dogs.

    I suspect that Dayton got a few earfuls over “Dog Gate” (sorry, couldn’t resist) at Game Fair. This is what probably go him going.

    In Dayton’s defense I suspect he either had his vehicle in an underground garage or with the air conditioning going (after half an hour the dog would have been dead out in the sun.) Dayton offered no explanation. Years ago I parked at the Hennepin Government Center underground ramp. Nice and cool but I would report pets in cars to guards. They didn’t mind a short time but chalked the cars for longer times.

    That said the lefty tactic of shrugging things off and deriding those who brings things up either works or backfires.

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/16/2010 - 07:01 pm.

    million = billion, sorry.

  7. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/16/2010 - 07:02 pm.

    Elizabeth Salander does one thing “Direct Action” nuff said.

  8. Submitted by William Levin on 08/16/2010 - 08:10 pm.

    I think The Kinks had it back in 1981…Paranoia The Destroyer…
    Dr. dr. help me please, I know youll understand
    Theres a time device inside of me, Im a self-destructin man
    Theres a red, under my bed
    And theres a little green man in my head
    And he said, youre not goin crazy, youre just a bit sad
    cause theres a man in ya, knawin ya, tearin ya into two.

    Silly boy ya self-destroyer.
    Paranoia, the destroyer

    Self-destroyer, wreck your health
    Destroy friends, destroy yourself
    The time device of self-destruction
    Light the fuse and start eruption

  9. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 08/16/2010 - 08:30 pm.

    I’ve got news for you Jay, a lot of us agree with Dayton. Minnesota used to be a place where we were above the kind of craziness that goes on elsewhere. Bachmann, Pawlenty and now this goofball Emmmer are bringing it all right here. Many of us don’t like to see our state being dragged into the muck like this.

  10. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/16/2010 - 09:00 pm.

    I suspect that, now that it has become known that GOP trackers are not just tracking and recording, but interfering with opposing candidates, others will begin to “interfere” a bit with those who are doing the interfering.

    Have flashlight, will travel (like a nice. black, 6 cell maglight)?

    Have squirt gun filled with garlic water, or skunk water, or cheap-but-very-persistent cologne or perfume that a young republican wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, will travel?

    Have 6’9″ professional wrestler or football player-type read to travel and only too happy to plant himself in the way of trackers and intimidate them with a little tummy bump to their puny little cameras, once in awhile? Why not? (how could you accuse a tummy bumper in a crowd of anything)?

    Any young DFL’ers interested in unofficially assisting Dayton with “crowd” control?

    Of course the DFL could always take the Andrew Breitbart approach to tracking and string together phrases from a Horner or Emmer speech to make them say something the candidate never ACTUALLY said, then release it without any vetting on the internet…

    Nah, no need to do that, both gentlemen (and I use the term loosely, in Emmer’s case) are providing plenty of offensive and outrageous speech all by themselves.

  11. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/16/2010 - 09:39 pm.

    Look, when you have outfits like UpChuckVideo and others stalking Michele Bachmann night and day waiting for a gotcha moment, it’s about time the democrats swallow a little of their own medicine. See how you like it.

  12. Submitted by Patrick Wells on 08/16/2010 - 11:05 pm.

    Republicans … be careful. Attack ads are not successful when a large segment of the population already accepts the targeted candidate as a candidate of the people like Hubert Humphery or Paul Wellstone.

    Dayton, with all his human imperfections, is one of us and a Minnesota Icon. We know that he is not perfect, neither are we. Dayton supports Minnesota with no selfish agemda. Few Republicans could aspire to wear the mantel of the “people’s candidate.”

    When Republicans make fun of Dayton, they are making fun of ordinary people.

  13. Submitted by Roy Everson on 08/17/2010 - 01:59 am.

    GOP spokesters response to the most extreme behavior of the trackers remind me of parents who defend the most obnoxious children, no matter what, knee jerk. They take any dialog and use it to make a cheap shot to conform to their talking points. Party of personal responsibility? DFL, I guess.

  14. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/17/2010 - 08:10 am.

    Yeah, Patrick. Ordinary Minnesotans are millionaire trust fund babies who’ve never had a job in the private sector.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/17/2010 - 09:03 am.

    Honestly, when a guy acts like this, how hard is it to imagine him curled up under his desk in the fetal position?

    If he keeps this wacky behavior up, people with no interest in politics will be tracking him in hopes of making money on footage of Dayton finally going all the way over the edge.

  16. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/17/2010 - 09:51 am.

    Hey MinnPost editors! Can you just get on the e-mail list for every day’s Republican talking points? Then you could post them as they are sent out in a clearly-identified article.

    That way you could cut out the members of the commentariat whose only purpose is to visit this and several others sites under a variety of IDs and regurgitate those points as if they were thinking them up all by themselves.

    Doing so would also assist us in keeping track of which (if any) “conservative” posters were doing something besides just regurgitation – actually thinking things through, perhaps, actually doing research on the facts and coming to legitimate conclusions that are more conservative than our own.

  17. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 08/17/2010 - 10:14 am.

    Reverend Kapphahn, do you have facts to support your very uncharitable allegations?

  18. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 08/17/2010 - 10:17 am.

    Nice style sheet when describing the Republicans:

    “Lindsay Lohan in retreat”

    “scurried out of the front door”

    “and her tripod-toting ilk”

    Really? This is the journalistic style of the MinnPost?

    Where are the terms “erratic” and “paranoid” when describing Mark Dayton?

  19. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/17/2010 - 10:38 am.

    Time for Minnpost to break out the ol’ 6 cell Mag-lights, eh, Greg?

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/17/2010 - 11:09 am.

    As for the specific issue of trackers, obviously an attempt should have been made privately to establish some mutually accepted ground rules before going public with the issue. If those background discussions didn’t result in an agreement, someone lower in the Dayton camp should have raised the issue with the media, preferably with a video that makes their point a lot more clearly than the one they released.

  21. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 08/17/2010 - 11:09 am.

    Rev Greg, are you really supporting the assault/battery of trackers and other citizens with cameras?

    “Have squirt gun filled with garlic water, or skunk water, or cheap-but-very-persistent cologne or perfume that a young republican wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, will travel?”

    “and intimidate them with a little tummy bump to their puny little cameras, once in awhile? Why not?”

    What you have described is illegal, not to mention immoral. This type of common thuggery is unfortunately becoming all too common from the left.

  22. Submitted by Colin Lee on 08/17/2010 - 12:20 pm.

    Michael Brodkorb and his infantile excuses shows voters must pick up this rallying cry.

    It shouldn’t be such a stretch to compromise in cases when it helps our great state!

    We had legislators vote against Tim Pawlenty’s unallotments (spending cuts) simply to prevent a balanced budget and force the legislature into special session. They hoped to make the opposition look incompetent. This is Brodkorb-brand politics. Voters can’t pay close attention with asinine distractions.

    Trackers and character assassination ads ensure voters will not hear about issues that matter. What about the fact that health care costs are out-of-control and approaching half of our budget? What about candidates’ concrete plans to eliminate the deficit? Talk is cheap… how do we know Republicans won’t repeat fifteen-year record spending increases like 2002-2003 if they take power again?

  23. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/17/2010 - 02:00 pm.

    “Talk is cheap… how do we know Republicans won’t repeat fifteen-year record spending increases like 2002-2003 if they take power again?”

    That’s a reasonable question. There can be no argument that GWB abandoned the conservative principles that got him elected, and his TARP handout damaged not only himself and his administration, but the GOP.

    There is always risk involved in electing anyone to an office that bestows influence and power, but Tom Emmer has a track record that shows his message of fiscal responsibility is one he truly believes in.

    If Governor Emmer fails to deliver the smaller, more efficient government he promises, no one will be a more dissapointed, dedicated critic than I.

    Besides, the alternative is a fellow sporting a history of behavior that can only be described as bizarre, who promises to turn our pockets inside out to not only protect the failed status quo, but to strengthen it.

    Not much of a risk this time around for working people trying to keep a roof over their heads.

  24. Submitted by Colin Lee on 08/17/2010 - 04:25 pm.

    Thomas, I respect the fact you answered my question directly. I was referring to the MN State House in 2002-2003, which passed an almost 16% increase in the size of MN government that year along with newly-elected Governor Pawlenty. Both state AND federal Republicans grew government that year at a record pace. Many Republicans who voted for the spending increases still serve in the state legislature.

    Doesn’t that make it seem less likely that Emmer will be able to shake government subsidy mandates tied to big business donations that got Republicans elected? Doesn’t it seem swapping Democrats for Republicans simply trades one set of special interests for another? Bringing accountability back to our legislature requires taking the big money donations out of elections. Otherwise, our representatives serve another master.

  25. Submitted by Howard Miller on 08/21/2010 - 12:35 pm.

    Maybe the young Republican tracker will, after having heard Mr. Dayton a number of times, come to her senses, switch parties, support effective Democratic-majority government rather than destructive Republican rule. One can always hope

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