Rep. Kathleen Peters says fake robo-calls were targeted to hurt Republicans in mid-term

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It’s probably not her fault. It’s probably not her opponent’s fault either. But someone sent out a series of thousands of phone calls, some as early as 3 a.m., touting state Representative Kathleen Peters.

Aside from the un-Godly hour, the calls were just plain weird. The robo-calls received by voters from Sarasota to Brevard counties earlier this month were promoting Peters for Congress. That’s a seat she sought unsuccessfully against David Jolly after longtime member of Congress Bill Young passed away. Now she’s running to keep her seat in Tallahassee. On top of that, the messages were absent a disclaimer about who paid for them – something Florida campaign laws require.

The debacle was ultimately tracked down to some unsuspecting 53-year old woman who was the victim of what officials call “caller ID spoofing.” Basically, some jerk used her phone number to place the calls.

Prior to that revelation though, Peters blamed her opponent, Scott Orsini and Orsini, in turn, pointed the finger at Peters for having unscrupulous campaign staffers.

During a gathering of Tampa Bay area Republican powerhouses at a diner in Clearwater this morning, Peters was called out – comically and seemingly adoringly – by Florida Agriculture Commission Adam Putnam. He chuckled that perhaps he and Peters need to work on some phone reforms. Peters didn’t seem to think it was funny. Her campaign office, and legislative office, received gobs of angry phone calls from presumably sleep-deprived victims of the spoof campaign call. Peters even told her GOP friends at Sunset Grille she got called out while going to the bank.

The humiliation on her face, and the frustration, was palatable. Nevertheless, Peters didn’t miss a beat.

“Those phone calls were made with two different messages so some people got two. Somebody ran those phone calls from 2:20 a.m. to 6 a.m. down the entire I-4 corridor and any of you that know, knows that elections are won on the I-4 corridor,” Peters said.

“That manipulation was strictly about the Governor’s race and the state races that are going on right now. It had nothing to do with my district. It had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with Congressman Jolly. It had everything to do with this state race and this governor’s race and those are the kinds of tactics that are being played to get people angry and have Republicans not vote or get independents to maybe swing the other way.”

Peters apologized, again, to anyone who received the calls. She also noted that law enforcement said the culprit couldn’t be tracked. She called that “unfortunate.”

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.