Having the legal right to do something isn't the same as displaying sense in doing it. Washington Democrats may have found a soft spot in the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, and we'd be surprised if they just let it go now.
A political campaign holding an event on private property has the legal ability to include or exclude whoever it wishes. Want to include just supporters? You can. Just supporters plus certain media representatives? You can. And, at an endorsement event last week by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the Rossi campaign elected to do just that. When a video recorder named Kelly Akers showed up and started recording, he was asked, and then made, to leave the premises, by three off-duty police officers.
The Seattle Times noted that Akers has been asked to leave other Rossi events, and that the Rossi campaign specifically discourages video tracking. And this Rashomon-type recounting of the situation:
Sgt. Ty Elster, vice president of the guild, said three members "escorted" Akers out the door. Elster was not at the event but spoke to staff members who were there. He said he didn't know the names of the off-duty officers involved.
"I've heard various sources describe it as being manhandled," he said. "Our folks tell me it wasn't anything of the sort. They merely placed a hand on his arm and escorted him out the door. There was no force involved. There was no struggle."
A Democratic spokesman says that's not true. Kelly Steele, Akers' supervisor, accused the guild members of "violence" and said Akers was "drug outside from behind."
As Akers was evicted from the office, his camera recorded him saying, in an increasingly loud and alarmed voice, "Sir, could you please take your hands off me? Sir, could you please take your hands off of me?"
A guild member told him, "You were advised not to come into the building. This is private property. If you come back in the building you will be arrested for trespassing. Do you understand that? Do you understand?"
Sooner or later, someone on the Democratic side will probably spin out the video of Akers being thrown out of Rossi events - the "could you please take your hands off me" piece will no doubt be prominent - and when it does, it probably will go viral, and talk about it will swamp any minor glitch Akers' camera might otherwise have recorded at the events.
Point here is that Rossi's response to the video collection is distinctive from many other political figures. In 2006, Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick watched himself being taped by the opposition at stop after stop, and joked about it. (He got some praise, from this quarter among others, for his handling of the situation.) Rossi's opponent this year (as in 2004), Democrat Chris Gregoire, doesn't try to stop the video collection. Increasingly, it's simply becoming part of the landscape for anyone running for high office.
Rossi's campaign is trying to push back the tide on this one. That's not likely to go too well.