For first-time candidate Brian Mountcastle, having someone videotape each one of his public appearances might seem like a good omen.
In Mountcastle’s case, some of the faces becoming staples at his and other Democrats’ events are not actually supporters, but strategically placed political workers waiting for Mountcastle to slip up.
America Rising, a conservative super PAC created by Mitt Romney’s former campaign manager, has pinned Mountcastle’s bid against incumbent Chris Malone as a political race it is interested in following.
“The (representative) who came to my Knightdale event told me exactly why (he was) there,” Mountcastle said. “(He was) there to follow me and video any mistake or misstep that I make so they can publicize it and use it against my campaign.”
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America Rising calls itself “a new generation of Republican research and rapid response.”
It videotapes and pays close attention to non-Republican politicians to find inconsistencies, misinformation and mistakes during public appearances.
It then publicizes those mistakes, mostly through social media.
Mountcastle said he thinks the PAC’s actions are just “dirty politics” and won’t make him change the way he’ll run his first campaign.
“I’m not doing anything to offest or counteract what they’re doing because I don’t agee with what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s a scare tactic that I think is going to adversely affect what they’re trying to do because I think people are going to see it for what it is.”
Mountcastle said he won’t ask America Rising to stop coming to his events because at the very least, it allows him to reach people who may not support him.
“(I don’t ask them) to leave because my goal is to represent everybody,” he said. “If I make a mistake, I make a mistake, but my intent and my goal is (to do) the best for everybody.”
Focusing on swing states
The PAC usually focuses on politicians at a national level, but after being designated a swing state, its state politics became more important, said America Rising’s Executive Director Tim Miller.
Miller used to be a Republican National Committee media strategist.
“As a swing state with a competitive Senate race, North Carolina was one of the earliest states America Rising deployed trackers to this cycle,” he said in an emailed statement.
America Rising was planning on following the campaign of Mike McIntyre, who represented North Carolina’s seventh district, which includes Wilmington and Kinston.
McIntyre, however, decided in early January not to pursue re-election.
According to Miller, the PAC focuses on races that are expected to be close or ones that include a candidate who may pursue a higher office in the future.
“Mountcastle is just one of a number of state legislative candidates we are following in North Carolina with that in mind,” Miller said.
Mountcastle’s opponent, Chris Malone, said he’s had groups with similar goals attend some of his events, although he does not know about America Rising watching Mountcastle’s campaign.
“It’s just par for the course,” he said.
America Rising is also sending representatives to keep an eye on Brian Turner, a Democrat running for N.C. House in the 116th District, which is in Buncombe County.
Turner said he is flattered the group has identified his campaign as one to watch, but his focus is not on the attention from America Rising.
“You can’t worry about it, you have to focus on your campaign and your issuess ... not some guy with a camcorder,” Turner said.
America Rising lists U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan as one of its “featured candidates” and frequently posts about Hagan’s comments about the Affordable Care Act. Recently, the organization has started looking into the accuracy of Hagan’s claim that North Carolinians would be able to keep their health care policies under the ACA.
In addition to Mountcastle’s campaign, Miller said the organization is “keeping an eye on the Clay Aiken congressional race though he isn’t a featured target at this stage.”