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Campaign softly and swing a metal cane

An elderly aide to a congressman raps a pesky videographer.

October 28, 2008|Washington Post

In political campaigns today, digital video cameras and YouTube can be used as weapons. So can a good old-fashioned walking stick.

After a candidate's forum at a Winchester, Va., hotel Friday, two young campaign workers for Democrat Judy Feder, who is challenging 14-term incumbent Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), learned this the hard way.

Armed with a video camera, the Feder workers followed Wolf, his wife and a congressional staffer down the stairs and into the lobby to pepper Wolf with questions that they say he has evaded.

That's when Wolf's 83-year-old staffer whacked the videographer with a metal cane.

"Sir, please don't!" yelled the videographer, Matt Kent, 22, a field organizer for Feder's campaign, in the video, which the campaign posted on YouTube and on a Democratic blog over the weekend.

Monday morning, Wolf's campaign apologized for the actions of Ben Dutton, a former Winchester City Council member who has worked for Wolf since 1992. But the congressman's reelection team also condemned the tactics employed by Feder's campaign, which they said was trying to goad Wolf into a hostile reaction.

"The campaign apologizes if Ben used poor judgment and hit him with his cane," said Dan Scandling, a Wolf campaign spokesman. But, he added, "the whole thing was provoked. It was a setup."

Ever since Virginia politician George Allen's political aspirations were sunk two years ago with the help of an online video, candidates have sent workers to shadow their opponents with cameras in the hopes of capturing a gaffe and putting it on the Internet.

Allen is widely believed to have lost his Senate race against James Webb in 2006 after he was caught on tape using an ethnic slur against a young Webb volunteer who had been tracking the then-incumbent senator.

Experts say the tactic is becoming more aggressive.

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