Phony predawn robocalls naming Rep. Kathleen Peters anger voters (listen)

People in at least five counties got the message naming state House candidate Kathleen Peters.

State Rep. Kathleen Peters says the early morning robocalls did not come from her campaign. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times (2013)
State Rep. Kathleen Peters says the early morning robocalls did not come from her campaign.SCOTT KEELER | Times (2013)
Published October 20 2014
Updated October 20 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Dozens of people across the state woke up grumpy Sunday after getting roused from their slumber in the middle of the night by automated political calls.

The recorded voice told those who picked up the phone between 3 and 6 a.m. that Kathleen Peters was the right person to represent them in Washington. One problem, besides the hour: Peters is seeking re-election to the state House of Representatives, in Tallahassee.

So Peters was a bit grumpy herself over what she said were campaign high jinks. The message, she said, was a fake.

"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," Peters said in a prepared statement.

Peters received reports that people in at least five counties got the calls, though her state District 69 House seat is confined to Pinellas County.

Sandy Crosier of Sarasota answered one of them.

In her 3:59 a.m. haze, she snatched up the receiver and readied a verbal lashing for whoever was on the other end.

"Do you realize what time it is?" she shouted, before realizing herself she was yelling at a robot.

"Kathleen is the right candidate to represent Pinellas County in Washington," the message said.

Peters, a Republican, did run for Congress during a special election in January that she lost to Rep. David Jolly and said she doesn't remember using so-called robocalls then.

"I've gone out of my way to not be annoying to voters," Peters said by phone Sunday afternoon. "No robocalls at all. Personally, I hate them, so why would I do them?"

Before she could get in front of the early morning mishap, Peters had received dozens of emails, social media messages and voicemails from angry people across the state, demanding to know why any right-minded politician would try to campaign at 3 a.m. on a Sunday.

"To me, it's just underhanded dirty tricks," she said.

Peters' opponent, Democratic candidate Scott Orsini, said he "certainly wouldn't do anything like that" and that he and Peters have tried to keep their campaigning clean.

"I don't do things that way," he said. "I don't have to."

All phony robocall recipients who contacted Peters' office will receive personal apologies, Peters said.

Her campaign is investigating further and will reach out to the state attorney's office and other oversight agencies today to determine if any election laws were broken.

"I am exploring all options to hold accountable all those responsible for disrupting the lives of the families getting these calls," Peters said in her statement.

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow her @kemettler.

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