Kathleen Peters, Scott Orsini deny responsibility for pre-dawn robocalls

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Nobody likes getting robocalls from political campaigns. Getting them in the middle of the night and wee hours of the morning is even worse.

The Tampa Tribune reported about one Sarasota man who got a call asking him to support state Rep. Kathleen Peters for Congress. She’s not running for Congress and she’s not in his district.

 The Tampa Bay Times reported another woman in Sarasota who received the call just before 4 a.m.

“Kathleen is a 28-year resident of Pinellas County, a former mayor of South Pasadena and a current state Representative. Kathleen is a community leader who knows Pinellas County and works hard to find solutions. On January 14, I hope you will vote for Kathleen Peters for Congress,” a woman narrator says on the robocall.

The call appears to be a holdover from Peters’ bid for the late C.W. Bill Young’s seat in Congress. Peters lost in a special election primary to now Congressman David Jolly. Not only is the message dated, it also lacks the required statement at the end telling voters who is behind the call.

Peters said she had nothing to do with it. Her office was bombarded with angry emails and messages from people in several counties who received the call during the early morning hours over the weekend. In a written response, Peters said the robocalls were “campaign trickery.”

“Dirty tactics conducted by a few bad actors seem to be an unfortunate part of elections these days. Today, it has come to my attention that Floridians are getting automated phone calls at all hours of the day and night claiming to be on my behalf. These calls are not part of my campaign, they were never authorized by me or anyone from my campaign, and they are against the law. Therefore, I am exploring all options to hold accountable all those responsible. It is deeply troubling to me that these calls are disrupting the lives of the families, are without any type of disclaimer and so far have been traced back to an inactive telephone number. We are in the process of contacting appropriate state and federal law enforcement to find those who are responsible for doing this. I ask those involved to immediately stop these calls.”

Peters is running against Democrat Scott Orsini for re-election in her District 69 Pinellas County seat. His campaign said it is not responsible for the offending calls.

“Our campaign does not need to resort to these underhanded tactics,” Scott Orsini said. “It’s unfortunate that Representative Peters’ first instinct is to cast blame instead of taking responsibility for putting her trust in disreputable consultants.”

The Peters campaign suspects the call was meant to dissuade voters from going to the polls. Whoever is behind the call, it seems unlikely that either campaign would benefit by targeting voters outside the district.

“It’s important that people vote, or we’re going to keep getting politicians who work for Duke Energy and Tallahassee special interests,” said Orsini. “I’m running to represent the people of District 69 and do what’s right for our community.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.