Communication Builds Our Community

Foreign PACs Send Wave of Personal Attacks in Tuesday's Lake Wales City Commission Race

Huge Investment by Out-of-Town Groups Unprecedented in Local Electioni

A last-minute wave of text messages paid for by a "dark money" political action committee in Venice have targeted at least one challenger in a city commission race on the eve of the April 2 election.

Carol Gillespie, who is challenging incumbent City Commissioner Danny Krueger, has been the target of what a campaign spokesperson called "an ugly and false smear campaign" by an out-of-town political action committee.

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The text messages apparently attempt to turn Gillespie's endorsement by the Polk Clean Energy Alliance into a liability.

The text messages from "Keep Florida Winning" highlight Gillespie's calls for sustainable environmental practices as a threat to the Lake Wales community. She has raised concerns about the waves of intense development which have been proposed for Lake Wales as a threat to the community's quality of life.

Gillespie has been endorsed by the Polk Clean Energy Coalition.

"Beware California Carol Gillespie," the text message reads, claiming she has "dangerous views" and will bring "job-killing policies" to Lake Wales.

News file photo

Gillespie, a self-described moderate, has called for the protection of environmental lands through a county-funded program, and a cautious response to the rapid development pressures the city is facing. She has also expressed support for the use of solar electric panels on city buildings, which she says will save taxpayers significant amounts of money over time.

Gillespie, who is a self-described moderate, has lived in Lake Wales with her husband Gary for more than a decade. Public records indicate Krueger purchased a home here in 2017 after moving from Wisconsin.

The text-message attack follows a large investment by another PAC based in Jensen Beach called "Building a Brighter Future for Florida," which sent thousands of misleading postcards to city voters here.

The large expenditure of outside money in a local election is a new phenomenon, as are attempts to inject divisive national issues into local elections. There is much speculation as to who is behind the attack texts but the Florida Department of State records list the officers as Chairperson Jennings DePriest, and Treasurer Eric Robinson, A phone number listed in state records as (904) 488-7794 returns a message which states "this extension has not been assigned."

One resident wrote to the News to report that she had "been getting messages from "Jack," for weeks. I have no idea why I'm on their list. I've unsubscribed three times with no stopping!"

The PACs behind the attack texts are not required to disclose the source of their funds, therefore they are referred to as "dark money PACs."


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