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Jim Lee: Track what candidates are saying

If anything, we need more tracking of what political candidates are saying when they meet with potential voters, not less of it.
Attorney General Doug Gansler isn't happy that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is using a tracker to videotape Gansler at his appearances. According to the Associated Press, "at times, Gansler aides have physically blocked the view of the young Brown staff member who regularly shows up at the attorney general's events and records his words."
The two are among the Democrats running for governor. David Craig, a Republican candidate for governor, also criticized Brown for using trackers, according to the Associated Press.
Whether the various campaigns actively employ people to go out and record their opponents' appearances, candidates surely know that in this day where just about everyone has a video camera on their cellphone, they have to be very careful about what they say.
Candidates and their supporters have been following around opponents for decades. Just about every election I hear complaints from people about how a specific candidate says one thing to one group of people, and then when addressing a different group with a different viewpoint says something totally opposite. No one really expects any candidates to keep campaign promises. Even those who made campaign promises in the past and are running for re-election are adept at coming up with excuses for why they didn't follow through.
This past week we launched a discussion board as part of our election website. Right now, we've posted a couple questions asking what people think of their government and what voters think are the most important issues in their districts. Hopefully the boards will generate some good back and forth as we look toward the 2014 election.
But visitors can also use the discussion board to post questions to candidates or to make note of candidates who might be telling one group of people one thing and saying something totally different to another group. Everyone should be a political tracker, and we should all commit ourselves to making sure that we hold candidates accountable for the things they say.
That goes for questionable material in mailers, on candidate websites or elsewhere. In one not-too-distant election some Republicans got some very negative feedback after they sent out mailers that included pictures of themselves with Gov. Robert Ehrlich. The mailer were designed to make it look like the candidate and then-governor were all sorts of chummy when, in fact, most were just snapshots from political fundraisers that the candidates probably even had to pay for.
A few candidates suggested that Ehrlich had endorsed them, which drew ire from the Ehrlich camp, with the governor saying he didn't endorse anyone in the primaries.
Some candidates are rather creative in some of the issues that they put forward on their websites too, as well as how they will resolve the supposed problem. We would like voters who are researching the various candidates to point out when they find something that doesn't quite pass the sniff test.
With all the state and local offices up for election in 2014, the campaigns are sure to get heated. If history is a guide, a lot of people are going to be throwing out a lot of rhetoric, some of which will be sorely lacking in facts.
The candidates have websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or they utilize other social media platforms in an attempt to put their name and message out in front of voters. When you see something odd, or that raises red flags for you, make sure that you pass it along so that others can become aware as well.
Individual candidates and their campaigns should not have to have trackers on their staff to keep a watch over opponents. These days, voters have all the tools they need to do the job themselves, and by utilizing other available options, such as our election discussion board, you can make sure that others are aware of what is going on and what the candidates are saying.
For candidates, there should be no expectation of privacy when they are addressing public settings or groups. But even if that were so, doesn't it make more sense for the candidates to want to get their message out to as many people as possible? Any candidate that would protest having his or her words taped should raise some immediate suspicions for voters.
Openness and honesty are two qualities that should be a given in anyone aspiring to public office. This election cycle, let's all commit to holding the candidates accountable for what they say and do. Visit our discussion board to add your thoughts. Let's get the conversation started.

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