|By Nathaniel Herz, Anchorage Daily News|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But over the next few months, as the contest heats up for the
Earlier this month, Halcro said, he asked a tracker to leave a
"I went up to him and I just said, 'Excuse me, could you put that away?'" Halcro said. "I want the candidates to come and be able to express themselves and not be worried about someone in the audience with a camera who's going to throw it up in an attack ad two weeks later."
When Begich travels to events around the state, he's often followed by
Begich says he doesn't mind the attention. But his campaign is not the only one under the microscope.
There are at least two other trackers working on this year's
The trackers have followed the candidates to appearances in
The trackers' presence in
"The trackers are our first line, our eyes and ears out there in the field," said
Miller wouldn't authorize an interview with Slater, though he said
But interviews with people involved in the trackers' work shed light on their presence in
Don't lie about who you are
Tracking isn't the most prestigious job, but ask higher-level political operatives -- even in
Slater, who's tracking Begich, is a member of the Alaska Young Republicans group; he worked with state Rep.
"It wasn't anything real technical -- he did OK," Stoltze said.
The tracker for the Outside Democratic group,
He's been on the payroll of
Part of the job description for trackers like Neff and Slater: Show up at as many events as possible and get the candidates on the record. Don't lie about who you are, and don't make a scene that could make you a part of the story.
Trackers look for gaffes, like the 2012 comment from
Trackers' day-to-day duties, however, are geared primarily toward providing campaigns and parties with a broader awareness of where their opponents stand, and what they're doing.
That includes work like compiling the audio and video footage on meat-and-potatoes political issues that can be used for attack ads, or amplifying comments made by candidates when they're speaking to a narrow audience, such as on partisan talk radio shows.
When it comes to monitoring events in person, trackers can sometimes run into hurdles -- they typically don't get into events on private property. At the end of the Republican
But just because trackers aren't always welcome doesn't mean that they can't be enterprising, or at least try to follow candidates to appearances that aren't advertised publicly.
Neff noticed on a political blog that Sullivan was hosting a
"Sullivan came down the docks wearing a camouflage jacket and a Sullivan campaign baseball hat. He said 'good morning' to me just as my camera was coming online," the report says, going on to describe how Neff captured video of the charter "absolutely tearing out of (the) harbor."
"For context, I sprinted whole length of dock for this shot and I barely beat the boat to my vantage point," he reported.
Terabytes and terabytes of data
Political parties, independent groups and candidates have all used trackers in growing numbers since a key moment in 2006, when a sitting
In the past, trackers have filmed events with miniature tapes, which were sent back to party or campaign headquarters for processing and storage.
"When things are working right, you can get out at an event and get a clip back to headquarters, transcribed, uploaded to
Miller's group is participating in its first federal election cycle.
In addition to monitoring Begich while he's in
It has a similar library of footage and roster of trackers, according to news reports, and officials with the group claim that as of May, its trackers had traveled some 365,000 miles and covered 5,500 events since the 2012 election.
"We want to be able to juxtapose what he's trying to sell voters in
Familiar faces at campaign events
The candidates, however, say they don't mind.
"I don't know what their strategy is, because what I say in public or what I say in private, it's all the same," Begich said.
"That just shows that I'm doing a lot of work," he said.
Sullivan, one of the Republican candidates, has also received ample attention from the Democratic trackers. A spokesman said Sullivan typically makes sure to point out the trackers at his public appearances, but doesn't change his message.
"He'll say, 'We have our friend with
In fact, the Sullivan campaign's relationship with Neff, the
"He was nice and took a photo for the group," Anderson said.
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