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Sheffield accuses rival McLeod of ‘stalking’

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Georgia Republican Congressional hopeful Maria Sheffield on Tuesday accused one of her male rivals of “stalking” her movements ahead of next month’s primary’s contest.

Sheffield accused by press release fellow GOP’er Wright McLeod of commissioning an effort to capture and catalogue her public comments, mining the coffee klatches and candidate forums alike for damning kernels that might sink her bid to unseat Democratic Rep. John Barrow.

“Wright has made the decision to stalk me by using the Democratic tactic of tracking,” Sheffield said in comments circulated Tuesday by her campaign. “I call on Wright McLeod to renounce the tactic of tracking, to apologize for stalking me on the campaign trail, and to publically [sic] state his campaign will no longer use this Democrat tactic against ‘fellow’ Republicans.”

Sheffield is the only candidate in the four-way primary to notch a tracker to date. It’s unlikely she’ll land a second, though, at least not from rival Lee Anderson’s camp.

“We aren’t wasting our money on a fourth place candidate with delusions of importance,” Anderson strategist Joel McElhannon told the Tipsheet by email when asked if the campaign had any designs on tracking Sheffield in the remaining month of the campaign. “McLeod has proven himself to be a pathological liar, but not a stalker.”

But even as the tactic has been embraced this cycle by American Bridge 21st Century, a deep-pocketed liberal political action committee primarily organized to develop a comprehensive video cache of GOP stump missteps, it’s not one that has been exclusively adopted by Democrats.

A number of national Republican committees, including the Republican Governors Association, have bankrolled tracking operations to capture the gaffes and inconsistencies of Democrats nationwide. One such effort stung Georgia’s former Governor Roy Barnes when he campaigned last year for his old post.

Yet it is the Democratic group American Bridge, who dispatched blue-jean clad twentysomethings across the country last year with camcorders in two to capture every utterance of top tier Republican White House hopefuls, that has been most closely tied with the practice.

Some of these trackers became campaign fixtures, even landing first-name acknowledgement from the candidate, while others still were merely fleeting presences in the boom and bust that typified this cycle’s presidential primary bout.

But for all their GOP targets, the presence of a tracker was an indication that opponents took them seriously, if only for the moment. And it was only their eventual absence that truly concerned them, an early omen of sliding support.

The same is true of McLeod’s interest in Sheffield: campaigns don’t waste critical resources in the waning days of a contest on gadfly opposition. The investment of staff and resources is an indication that internal polling has found the two dipping from the same well of voters.

- James Richardson