(Editor's Note: As of the next election, Tewksbury will be included in the 6th Congressional District, presently represented by Congressman John Tierney.)
Campaigns involve more than just shaking hands, debating issues and berating an opponent. Sometimes activities are a bit more clandestine.
And in campaigns, there are "trackers" who follow candidates to events with cameras to catch a glimpse of unseemly behavior or politically questionable comments. And congressional candidate Richard Tisei's campaign says that has now gone too far.
The Tisei campaign is calling for Congressman John Tierney to tell his trackers to back off, claiming the trackers have been parked outside of Tisei's house and Tisei's elderly mother's house and invaded private events.
Say it Isn't So
One event in particular was at Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus this week, at which Tisei was having a dinner discussion with a group of supporters. Tisei's campaign manager Paul Moore said that a tracker was kneeling down at the dinner table with a camera about 6 inches from Tisei's face.
The alleged incident brings to the spotlight the use of opposition surveillance operatives -- trackers -- and the question of how far is too far.
"John Tierney's campaign is engaged in thuggish behavior," Moore said in a statement after the event. "For many weeks, they've followed Richard into private and public events. They've even staked out his home and his elderly mother's home in Wakefield. This evening at a private event at the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, Tierney's trackers repeatedly got within inches of Richard's face while he was sitting at a table speaking with young professionals. This is bullying that is clearly sanctioned by John Tierney and his campaign and it's unacceptable."
Private Eyes Are Watching You
To be clear, it's common to have people following candidates and in most campaigns -- especially ones as heated as the 6th District race -- both sides utilize these tactics and most campaigns accept them as part of the race.
"We've tried to be very civil to John Tierney's trackers," Moore said. "We gave them water throughout a recent parade. We've let them have considerable access to Richard, as we've nothing to hide."
Moore says that he does not tolerate his own trackers being inappropriate, however and would like the trackers used by Tierney and pro-Tierney organizations to put a stop to it as well.
"Just last week at an event where the Chamber endorsed Richard at a private workplace in Lynn, a group of Tierney's supporters appeared," Moore said. "Sadly, the group nearly attacked a handicapped woman who dared to pull her car up in front of the facility so that she could attend the event. They yelled at her and screamed that she wasn't handicapped - until they saw her limping along with her cane. Then, in shame, they disbursed - as well they should have done. This sort of bullying, thuggish behavior is apparently sanctioned by the congressman. If not, we challenge he and his campaign to end these tactics - including the surveillance of Richard's home and his mother's home."
'I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)'
Moore forwarded the following email he sent to Tierney campaign manager Matt Robinson and even threatened to involve the police:
We all know the political game and the involvement in modern campaigns of campaigns or party entities tracking the candidates to catch them in unguarded moments.
I've given very strict and repeated instructions to a person tracking your boss that we do not sanction getting within a close perimeter of the Congressman.
Frankly, I think that sort of strategy backfires and is both uncivil and stupid. If you are aware of ANY recent behavior that involves someone tracking the Congressman who is associated in any way with Richard's campaign or any GOP entity, please tell me. I'll see to it that they're assigned to a broom closet.
Unfortunately, a number of people tracking Richard on behalf of the Congressman's campaign have become extremely aggressive in recent days.
I've given very clear instructions to eager volunteers that they're to be completely civil to your trackers under all circumstances. That has led, regrettably, to real abuses of this civility. Tonight is, frankly, the last straw.
You can check out the footage from your tracker at the Kowloon event and determine for yourself if you find that to be acceptable behavior. We did not.
Our civility has not been reciprocated, as it ought to be. From this point forward, we will not tolerate the presence of any tracker on private property. If there is resistance, the police will be called immediately. If it is on public property, the police will be called.
Another option is to restrain your trackers, as we have done. Please let me know your preference.
The Tierney campaign denies employing trackers with such tactics and said the issue is a distraction from real debates.
"The tracker in question is not a member or our campaign staff and our trackers are always civil while recording Mr. Tisei's public statements," Tierney campaign Communications Director Grant Herring said. "He is trying to distract from the fact that he supports the Ryan Plan to end Medicare and that his Republican allies want to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape."