RACINE — Allegations of dirty campaigning and fake identities have arisen in the City of Racine’s 13th District aldermanic campaign just days before the primary election.
A primary election is scheduled for Tuesday between Natalia Taft, Christina Seaman and Mark Balcer to see who may replace Jim Morgenroth, who is not seeking re-election. The general election between the top two vote-getters in the primary will be held April 2.
Two sets of texts have been sent in the last three weeks, which have angered and confused all three candidates.
A friend of Taft’s filed a Wisconsin Ethics Commission complaint on Friday, alleging that Seaman misrepresented herself and may have failed to disclose contributions on campaign documents. Then, late Saturday night, a series of texts were sent purportedly supporting Taft’s campaign that reportedly bashed Seaman and Balcer, although Taft said that she nor her campaign ever sent those messages.
Both Balcer and Seaman told The Journal Times that they never sent the texts pretending to be Taft, although they both said they received those texts.
Taft said that she filed a complaint with the police on Sunday regarding the alleged impersonation.
Seaman also has claimed that somebody has repeatedly attempted to destroy her campaign materials, and Balcer’s, including nearly 30 yard signs supporting her campaign. Balcer also said that a number of his signs were stolen, and campaign literature his supporters hung on doors over the past weekend were repeatedly removed.
“I have never, ever removed any campaign literature from the doors,” Taft told The Journal Times on Sunday night.
“I don’t like this negative stuff,” Balcer said, a sentiment shared by both Taft and Seaman.
On Feb. 2, someone who identified themselves as “Breanna” sent a mass text message to voters in the 13th District, encouraging them to vote for Seaman. This texter shared inaccurate information regarding how phone numbers were acquired by Seaman’s campaign, according to a Wisconsin Ethics Commission complaint filed Friday by Beth Pramme, who is a friend of Taft’s and responded to texts from “Breanna” on Feb. 2.
Then, late Saturday night, texts purporting to be from Taft were sent to voters, encouraging them to vote for her. Taft said that she never sent the texts and doesn’t know who did.
Taft told The Journal Times that she first heard about these texts from a voter who was annoyed by the late-night arrival of the text, and had chosen to not vote for her specifically because they were annoyed by the late-night message.
Seaman said that she received the text too, as did Balcer, although neither is sure who actually sent them.
The number that these texts were sent from appears to have been sent from a “virtual phone number” — meaning that it may have been created online and isn’t associated with an actual phone — according to PhoneValidator.com, a website that allows phone numbers’ origins to be searched.
Balcer received the same text. He replied to the text, and he said the texter — still purporting to be Taft — responded by saying that both he and Seaman were “uneducated nobodies” and that the mayor “hand picked (sic) me to represent the wants of the district.”
Taft said that she never sent any such texts and is upset that anyone would claim to be her.
“I don’t want somebody annoying people late at night and purporting to be me,” Taft said.