Political trackers work to catch candidates at their worst - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Political trackers work to catch candidates at their worst

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In this shot of Matt Bevin before a speech, you can see one of the trackers in the upper right corner of the photo with a camera. In this shot of Matt Bevin before a speech, you can see one of the trackers in the upper right corner of the photo with a camera.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With the November election less than two weeks away, campaigns are filling the airwaves with TV spots.

We went behind the scenes to find out how campaigns get material for all those attack ads.

They operate in the shadows, but you've probably seen their work. They’re the hired guns whose job is to catch candidates at their worst moments.

It's a routine campaign stop for Republican candidate for governor, Matt Bevin. But on this occasion, he points out two uninvited guests with video cameras.

“These two people in the back of the room follow me everywhere I go,” Bevin tells the crowd.

They're called "trackers." Their job is indeed to follow candidates and record whatever they say.

“They're trying to make attack ads. They're trying to clip words out and use them in negative ways, and sadly this is what politics have become,” Bevin told WDRB.

Trackers are common in campaigns on both sides of the aisle.

While Bevin claims not to use them, Democrats say pro-Bevin groups do employ trackers to follow Jack Conway.

“Trackers have actually changed elections; major elections,” said Democratic consultant Bob Gunnell.

Gunnell points to a tracker video which doomed George Allen's Virginia senate campaign in 2006, when he used a perceived racial slur, ironically, when referring to a tracker.

“This fellow over here in the yellow shirt, 'Macaca' or whatever your name is,” Allen is heard saying in the video as he points to a person in the crowd.

“They'll film them walking down the street. They'll film them eating dinner somewhere. It's part of being a candidate. You're on. You have to be on 24-7,” said Gunnell.

One tracker at the Bevin event tells WDRB she works for the Kentucky Democratic Party, but will not give her name.

The other did. He says he's Pete Howe, and he works for a progressive-leaning PAC called American Bridge.

WDRB asked Howe why he follows Bevin around.

“Accountability. That's the name of our game at least. Make sure people mean what they say, and say the same thing everywhere they go,” he said.

In a statement, the Democratic Party defends trackers, saying Bevin "can't deny what he said on videotape."

In fact, tracker videos have shown up in Democrat commercials advancing their theme that Bevin is dishonest.

In one ad Bevin tells a crowd, “One of the reasons I was opposed to the farm bill is that it is an insult to farmers.”

The video then shows Bevin at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Forum saying, “The idea that I said that a farm bill is an insult to farmers is an absolute misrepresentation of what I said.”

Gunnell says, while it may seem a bit shady, it is effective.

“As long as it works, people will do it,” he said.

As for Pete Howe, it's clear he's not as comfortable in front of the camera as behind it.

WDRB asked Howe whether he hopes to catch Bevin in a “gotcha” moment.

“I have no control over anything that really happens. I'm just here to film,” said Howe.

Both parties use trackers. They are sometimes volunteers, and sometimes paid, but they have become part of the landscape of modern politics.

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