LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Democrats accused the state Republican Party on Thursday of crossing an ethical line in a volatile political climate by including the personal cellphone numbers of Democratic candidates in campaign mailers.
State House Democrats said at least six of their candidates were featured in recent GOP attack pieces that told recipients to contact them by calling numbers that were their cellphone numbers.
Jaime Churches of Wyandotte, a Democrat and a teacher running in the 27th House District, said she found out about the mailer featuring her number because one of her students brought it to class.
“Yesterday, the Michigan Republican Party sent a negative mailer to my district and encouraged voters to call my personal cellphone number,” Churches tweeted Wednesday night. “The incitement of hate should never be normalized or accepted. I refuse to be intimidated.”
The mailer from the Michigan Republican Party accused Churches of siding with “radical allies.” It said people should call her and “tell her that she has the wrong prescription for Downriver.”
Michigan GOP spokesman Gustavo Portela said Churches had included the cellphone number on a press release about her campaign.
“We used publicly available information, so if the number is public, we’ll utilize that,” Portela said.
But Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes said given the tense political climate in the days before Tuesday’s midterm election, the use of the candidates’ personal numbers was shocking. Barnes also mentioned the fact U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was attacked in their home last week.
“It just feels a little bit dangerous and irresponsible,” Barnes said.
House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, a Scio Township Democrat, said the mailers were “a dangerous tactic designed to intimidate our candidates.”
Political ads and mailers that avoid telling people specifically how to vote can fall outside of Michigan’s campaign finance disclosure requirements, meaning the donors behind them don’t have to be reported. Often, groups and political parties tell people to call and criticize or thank a candidate because those words steer clear of openly encouraging them to vote one way or another.
Barnes said the Democratic Party tries to use candidates’ office phone numbers or business numbers.
Democrat Reggie Miller was another candidate whose cellphone number was featured in a recent GOP mailer. Miller of Van Buren Township is running in the 31st House District.
Miller said while it was frustrating, she didn’t view the inclusion of her number as a big deal because she is a township trustee and her number has “been out there for years.”
“Do they need to publish it and hype it up and make it an extreme light? No, that’s not right,” Miller said of the Michigan Republican Party.
The GOP mailer criticized Miller about gas prices, urging people to call her and tell her “to support Downriver families, not extreme environmentalists.”
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