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Democratic candidates get "vile" calls after personal cell phone numbers put on opponents' mailings

Close up of woman's hands using smartphone touchscreen
North Carolina Residency Determination Service

Some Democratic candidates have been getting "hateful and vile" phone calls — after their Republican opponents put their personal cell phone numbers on campaign mailings.

Minority House Leader Donna Lasinski said it's happened in six highly competitive races, and the calls are getting more frequent and malicious as the election draws closer. She said the campaign strategy encourages harassment and is unethical.

"Our candidates have had to notify local law enforcement of these messages," said Lasinski. "Right now, they have not crossed the line to a threat that would take one of our candidates off the campaign trail, but they're getting messages that are just vile, they're pretty terrible."

At least six candidates had their personal cell phone numbers published in GOP mailers, Lasinski confirmed. (The calls were first reported by Capitol news service Gongwer.) Those "doxxed" include Democrat Jaime Churches, whose opponent in the 27th District race is Republican Bob Howey.

Others include Democrat Rob Kull in the 28th District, running against Republican Jamie Thompson, Democrat Joey Andrews, running in the 38th District against Republican Kevin Whiteford, Democrat Denise Mentzer, whose Republican opponent in the 61st District race is Mike Aiello, and Democrat Betsy Coffia, running to represent the 103rd District against Republican Jack O'Malley.

Michigan Radio reached out by email or phone to the Republican candidates, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication, save for Jack O'Malley.

O'Malley's office emailed this statement:

"It has come to my attention that a mailer was sent out containing my opponents cell phone number. It is reported that she has received several disturbing calls from individuals as a result of this. Let me first say that the mailer in question was sent without my knowledge or consent. It was also not paid for by my campaign. My opponent is very aware that this can happen because she too has had to explain incorrect statements made on her behalf."

"With that said," O'Malley's statement continued, "having been on the receiving end of threats and stupidity myself, I do not condone this type of behavior and never will. While I had no part in this, I do apologize to Ms. Coffia for the stupidity of others."

A spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party said in a statement that it's "utilizing publicly available information" in the campaign materials.

Lasinski said the Democrats who have been harassed are taking extra safety precautions.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.