Democrats across Florida heard a mysterious recorded call over the weekend that seemed aimed at attacking likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.
The voice in the recording? Charlie Crist.
"Hi, this is Charlie Crist calling to set the record straight. I'm pro-life. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, I support traditional marriage, and I have never supported a new tax or big spending program. It's sad that in his fourth try for governor my opponent has resorted to distortions and untruths. … Floridians need a consistent, conservative governor that they can trust. I would appreciate your vote on Election Day."
Not exactly your standard Democratic primary platform.
But the voice in the robocall really is Crist's and so were the positions he stressed. But it was Crist circa 2006 — not 2014.
Back then he was running in the Republican primary for governor and paid for the calls to shore up his conservative support and push back against rival Tom Gallagher's assertion that Crist was a moderate. They certainly were never intended for Democratic voters.
"I was shocked. I wondered if it was somebody that sounded like him, because I know those are not his views," said Debra Schlact of Tampa, who speculated the calls were fraud.
In Crystal River, the Rev. Mary Louise DeWolf was baffled by the reference "fourth try for governor" and double-checked Crist's campaign website to confirm his positions before calling and emailing the Tampa Bay Times for clarification.
Others who contacted the Times wondered whether Democratic underdog Nan Rich might be behind it, or if Republicans had hired a Crist mimic.
"Just received a call with edited snippets of Charlie Crist or some voice imitator designed to make him appear conservative. Despicable conservative GOP tricks," someone posted on a message board about mystery callers.
Anyone hearing the robocalls over the weekend would be hard-pressed to know their source. A woman at the end of the recording says it was paid for by "conservatives," and includes a phone number that when reached gives callers the option of being removed from a call list. Conservatives is the name of a political committee run by Stafford Jones, a Republican operative and Alachua County party chairman, who has a history of trying to damage Democrats in primary elections.
A spokesman for the Crist campaign called it a "shady voter suppression tactic."
"Republicans are so desperate they're not even bothering to cover their tracks: they're targeting Democratic primary voters with a robocall that's nearly a decade old, hoping to fool them into thinking it's new," said spokesman Brendan Gilfillan. "Republicans are running scared — so they're trying to suppress the vote. But it won't work."
Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected] Follow @adamsmithtimes.