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U.S. Senate candidate Mike Baumgartner calls the cops over Democrat’s video paparazzi

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on March 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
March 22, 2012 5:14 pm

Well, Baumgartner didn’t make the actual call to Lakewood Police last week during a meeting of Lakewood Republican Women.

Apparently the call came from a Republican in attendance who just happens to be the mayor of Lakewood, Doug Richardson.

But the Spokane Republican was aware of it and the incident provides a glimpse into a phenomena of modern political campaigns that the average voter never sees. That is the fact that most candidates are followed by opponents armed with a video camera to capture all statements made on the campaign trail. The point, apparently, is to catch a gaffe or a statement that appeals to a small group but might not sound so good to the general voting public.

Every now and then a dustup occurs and video of the confrontation usually makes it to YouTube.

It apparently was one of those opposition researchers who showed up at Oakbrook Golf Club last Thursday where Baumgartner was going to speak to Lakewood Republican Women about his campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell. According to Baumgartner, the videographer was told he could not come in and, after he tried filming through a window, they asked him to leave what is private property.

Later, according to Baumgartner, when his wife Eleanor Baumgartner went out to her car in the parking lot, the tracker followed her in his vehicle. Lakewood police were called and talked to the man who then moved to the street in front of the club.

Mike and Eleanor Baumgartner

“It is a privilege to be a public servant, but our family shouldn’t have to put up with you paying some creepy guy to follow my wife and harass her,” Baumgartner wrote in a letter to state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz. “It would be unacceptable for your operatives to do this to anyone, let alone a young mother, at night.”

Assistant Lakewood Police Chief Mike Zaro said no police report was filed on the incident but said there was a call made Thursday evening and three patrol cars responded. He said officers were not told of any incident involving Eleanor Baumgartner and that the videographer claimed he was assaulted by those who told him to leave.

“It sounds like two political opponents jabbering at each other and the officers just calmed them down,” Zaro said.

Benton Strong, spokesman for the Washington State Democratic Party, said he did not have details about the confrontation but said the videographer did work for the party and those employees identify themselves if asked.

“We employ videographers who document statements of officials running for office,” Strong said.

Here is the letter Baumgartner sent Pelz:
Dwight Pelz, Chairman
Washington State Democratic Party
PO Box 4027
Seattle, WA 98194

Dear Chairman Pelz,

I am writing regarding the “trackers” you pay to follow me to film me and capture my statements for future use in negative advertisements. These individuals have been a constant presence filming both at the State Capitol during the legislative session and at my campaign events across the state, and have repeatedly identified themselves as being paid for by the Washington State Democratic Party.

While strange, I certainly accept that being followed around nearly everywhere I go like this is a reality of campaigning in 2012, given the state of politics in America. (In fact, I’d never want to deny you the opportunity to hear me criticize Sen. Maria Cantwell for her role in more than doubling the federal debt, or for her repeated votes to authorize and fund the poorly planned wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully you take notes).

However, last week one of your trackers went far across the line when he decided to harass my wife Eleanor and follow her in his truck as she walked through a dark parking lot at an event in Lakewood. It would be unacceptable for your operatives to do this to anyone, let alone a young mother, at night, going to fetch food for her infant son.

For background, this individual had been refused entry by the hosts of a private evening meeting of the Lakewood Republican Women, and was asked to leave the premises. Instead, he first snuck around the back of the meeting room and tried to film through the windows and then later sat in his truck outside the entrance. Eventually the hosts called the police, but your tracker still waited outside in the public street until we left the premises some hours later.

I met Eleanor in Afghanistan, and I’ve seen her negotiate with tribal chiefs in Helmand and she’s run ultra-marathons through the desert. She is as tough as they come and can handle herself just fine. But this experience was frightening for her, and was completely inappropriate behavior on the part of the tracker. Please have it stopped.

It is a privilege to be a public servant, but our family shouldn’t have to put up with you paying some creepy guy to follow my wife and harass her.

It reflects poorly on the Democratic Party in Washington State, and on American politics in general.

Thank you for your consideration of my request. I hope we can work together to have an interesting and informative campaign in the months ahead, conducted in the civil manner the citizens of Washington State deserve.

Sincerely,

Michael Baumgartner
Washington State Senator

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