Treatment of tracker at Paul town hall in Carter Co. questioned by Gray campaign, which downplays video of staffer hip-checking RPK tracker

08/20/2016 10:51 PM

They’re often forgotten by the public until a candidate’s tongue slips — or an aide’s tongue slips onto a camera’s lens — but the alleged mistreatment of political trackers has emerged in this year’s U.S. Senate race.

And after Democrat Jim Gray harkened back the stomping incident outside KET studios that led to assault charges against a volunteer for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign, Pure Politics obtained footage of a Gray campaign staffer hip-checking a tracker for the Republican Party of Kentucky at this year’s Fancy Farm picnic.

Gray’s campaign first raised the issue in a news release Friday, crying foul after Carter County Judge-Executive Mike Malone had a campaign staffer barred from entering a Paul town hall at the local fiscal court building on Thursday.

The Gray staffer was told that Malone had prevented his access to the town hall because of “a private rental fee” paid for use of the fiscal court meeting space. When the cameraman would not say whether he would enter the meeting, an aide said he would “get the officer.”

A pair of Paul aides physically blocked the Gray staffer from joining Paul and Malone as they walked into the room.

Video released by the Gray campaign can be viewed here:

The Gray campaign questioned the removal of its staffer, saying he had RSVPed as required to the event held at a public building and no Paul trackers have been asked to leave Gray events. Spokeswoman Cathy Lindsey said that shows that “Rand Paul is afraid of REAL questions about REAL issues that Kentuckians face.”

“This is an ongoing pattern of harassment of opponents by the Paul campaign,” Lindsey said in a statement. “We all remember the violent attacks by Paul supporters on Jack Conway supporters at the 2010 KET debate. We hope that violence won’t happen again.”

That’s a reference to assault charges against Paul volunteer Tim Profitt after he stomped on a MoveOn.org protester outside an October debate at KET studios with former Attorney General Jack Conway during their 2010 race.

Paul’s campaign noted that the senator has held nearly 100 town halls across the state, often with trackers from Gray’s campaign and the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21 Century following along. Their attendance is at the discretion of the venue or event host, and Paul’s campaign said that Malone made the call to remove Gray’s tracker.

“This is just a ridiculous plea for attention by an increasingly desperate campaign that can’t justify it’s ties to Hillary Clinton’s War on Coal and Kentucky jobs,” Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said in a statement.

After raising the specter of the 2010 incident following the banishment of its tracker in Carter County, Gray’s campaign downplayed a video obtained by Pure Politics showing staffer Grace Wise throwing her body into a tracker for the Republican Party of Kentucky as Gray and supporters entered the picnic grounds at Fancy Farm Aug. 6.

Wise and another aide then clapped in front of the two RPK trackers in trying to block the cameras’ views, a common tactic by campaigns in dealing with trackers.

The video can be viewed here:

“As evidenced by the video, these trackers were still able to do their job,” Lindsey said in an email to Pure Politics.

“Unlike what we saw from the Paul campaign this week, there’s no public official kicking a member of the public out of a public place. This certainly pales in comparison to the head-bashing tactics of Paul’s campaign in the past.”

RPK spokesman Tres Watson called attempts to turn trackers into a campaign issue “the act of a desperate candidate who’d rather not talk about the issues.”

“Ignoring the fact they are excusing their staffers for assaulting RPK volunteers, Jim Gray’s flailing campaign is gasping at straws,” he said in an email to Pure Politics.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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