‘Now I’m taping him:’ Mahlon Mitchell says he’s no bully after turning the tables on GOP tracker

MILWAUKEE -- Democratic candidate for governor Mahlon Mitchell says he's no bully after recording the Republican tracker who's paid to follow him on the campaign trail.

Both parties send staffers or interns to track candidates, attempting to catch them making gaffes that will turn into negative advertising. Most candidates ignore the trackers, but Mitchell took a different tactic while campaigning on Milwaukee's north side Wednesday, August 1.

"OK, this is my tracker. Now I'm taping him. What do you think? Why do you follow me around everywhere?" said Mitchell in a Facebook Live video, catching Republican Gov. Scott Walker's campaign staffer off guard.

The tracker, Ben Stelter, tried to ask questions before turning around and walking to his car.

"You don't like this?" Mitchell called after him. "You don't like someone following you around with a camera all the time?"

Walker's campaign spokesman, Brian Reisinger, said it was standard for campaigns to use trackers against their opponents. He said it was Stelter's birthday.

"What’s not standard is for a union boss and man in a position of authority to bully a 23-year-old on his birthday, all the way to his car," Reisinger said in an email. "What happened to the high road Mitchell is always talking about?”

Mitchell said he was defending his space, not bullying the tracker.

"If Scott Walker wants to get my opinion on things, he shouldn't send a 23-year-old man to come and ask me questions. He should come ask me himself," said Mitchell.

The Walker campaign has paid Stelter about $8,200 since March, campaign finance records indicate. He has also earned at least $3,500 from the Republican Party of Wisconsin since last year.

Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor, said the interaction was unusual because Mitchell engaged Stelter, something Stelter wasn't expecting.

"It gives a chance for the audience to appreciate the higher level of the use of technology in terms of campaigns," Lee said. "Everything is being tracked, everything is being recorded."

In modern politics, everyone has a camera -- even the candidate.

"That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you handle a tracker appropriately. Turn it back around on them," said Mitchell in the Facebook Live video.

Mitchell has had some unusual slip-ups in this campaign, stopping just short of using a racial term in a recent campaign appearance.

He's behind Democratic frontrunner Tony Evers in the latest Marquette University Law School poll. The Democratic primary is Aug. 14.