Politics & Government

Political campaigns deploy trackers to watch opponents

The video went up on YouTube within hours:

“Hey, Mr. Yoder, why did you skip the debate in Lawrence?”

It was Derek Martin ambushing the congressional candidate outside his campaign headquarters Wednesday night after Kevin Yoder had backed out of a debate to attend another event.

Martin’s job is to follow and film political opponents — and try to catch them in a misstep.

Trackers like Martin, who works for the Kansas Democratic Party, have become a fixture of modern political campaigns. They now are so common that many political consultants say campaigns are behind the times if they don’t employ one.

Some applaud trackers for their work in trying to hold candidates accountable, while others call their behavior little more than harassment.

Either way, political strategists say tracking is vital to modern campaigning.

“Ten or 11 years ago you’d see it in big money races,” said Steve Glorioso, a veteran political consultant in Kansas City. “But now you’re seeing it in all congressional races, Senate races, gubernatorial raceswhen you run campaigns now you’ve got to do it.”

Martin defends the importance of his work.

“From what I’ve experienced, people think of me as a stalker, and I completely reject that title,” Martin said. “I think the biggest misconception is that this is somehow illicit, and I don’t think it is. If someone’s saying one thing on the news and another thing at an event no news media are at, I think people deserve to know about that.”

But trackers have come under fire recently after candidates filed complaints.

Vicky Hartzler, a Republican running for Congress in Missouri, and Stephene Moore, a Kansas Democrat, have both publicly said they were being harassed by trackers.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.