Home>Campaigns>The newest member of the Ciattarelli entourage? Murphy’s campaign tracker

Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli after a town hall in Jackson on October 6. (Photo: Joey Fox for New Jersey Globe).

The newest member of the Ciattarelli entourage? Murphy’s campaign tracker

By Joey Fox, October 07 2021 4:30 pm

Chris’s task is simple: when Jack Ciattarelli starts talking, he starts filming.

Chris is a tracker; his job is to follow the Ciattarelli campaign wherever it goes and film everything the candidate says. If and when Ciattarelli slips up – if he phrases a policy proposal inaptly, or grows impatient with a voter, or uses a word he didn’t really mean to use – Chris will have it on video for Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign to recut into attack ads and stump speeches.

It’s not an uncommon position for campaigns to have, and according to a 2014 story in The Atlantic, one tracker will sometimes follow the same candidate or politicians for years. Ciattarelli himself has been burned by campaign trackers before, like when he was caught on camera saying that “we’re not teaching sodomy in sixth grade” at a campaign event in July.

But at a town hall last night in Jackson Township, Ciattarelli demonstrated the strategy his campaign has developed for dealing with trackers like Chris: introduce him as a member of the team.

“One thing I do want to do is point out to you a very special guest that’s here tonight,” Ciattarelli said to a supporter in the town hall audience. “You know who’s here tonight? Chris. Do you know who Chris is? Chris follows me all around the state of New Jersey… Chris works for Phil Murphy. He’s called a tracker.”

Chris, either unwilling or unable to respond, softly smiled and shook his head. His iPhone, trained on Ciattarelli, stayed aloft.

“​​My campaign and I have become very fond of Chris,” Ciattarelli said. “See? He’s always smiling. And he’s become very fond of us.”

Far from a blemish on the town hall, Ciattarelli spun Chris’ presence as a sign of the transparency of his campaign – and possibly as an implicit warning that participants should try to refrain from making headlines themselves.

“We have no problem with Chris recording everything we’re going to say here today,” he said. “I’m all about transparency, I’ve got nothing to hide.”

Last night wasn’t the first time Chris has accompanied the campaign to town halls, and it also wasn’t the first time Ciattarelli has directly addressed the elephant in the room; apparently, Chris has become genuinely friendly with the Ciattarelli campaign team. The Murphy campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Before Ciattarelli moved on to taking audience questions – during which he unhelpfully made no mistakes that the Murphy campaign could hope to use – he addressed Chris one more time, imploring the assembled audience to let him do his job.

“In all sincerity, I don’t want anybody to give Chris a hard time,” he said. “He’s one of us. He’s a fellow New Jerseyan. He has a right to work for or vote for anybody he wants. I’ll be okay with that.”

But with a sly grin on his face, Ciattarelli made one last crack at Chris’ expense. 

“You know, as my mother used to say, they put curtains on voting booths for a reason, right?” he said. “He’s going to go in there and close that curtain, I think he’s voting for Jack Ciattarelli.”

Chris couldn’t do anything but keep on filming.

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