Janelle Perez: Text messages supporting Alexis Calatayud campaign spur death threats
Image via JanellePerez.com.

Janelle-Perez
Police are investigating death threats after text messages in the race for Miami-Dade-based Senate District 38.

Senate candidate Janelle Perez said she has been subject to hundreds of threats — some involving murder — since her personal phone number was used in text blasts claiming she was getting rich while making people sick.

The Democratic candidate seeking to represent a Miami coastal district held a press conference regarding the issue with Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. She said her phone has been blowing up with threats against her family since texts on behalf of her Republican rival, Alexis Calatayud, were sent. The text, which referenced a publicly available phone number, instructed voters to call the candidate.

The two candidates are competing for an open seat in Senate District 38.

Perez said the threats started Oct. 8 and continued through the following Thursday. They have been reported to the Pinecrest police, Perez said. Pinecrest police confirmed Monday they are looking into the matter.

“She (Calatayud) has now created a dangerous and toxic environment where she is attacking a mother, a parent and someone working to make our community a better place,” Perez argued. “As a candidate, I have a thick skin. But when I receive phone calls, and multiple texts, saying, ‘I’ll murder you and your family,’ as a mother and a wife, I have to take that seriously.”

Perez’s phone number included in the text is available in documents that were filed when Perez sought the Senate seat representing parts of Coral Gables, Homestead and Miami, as well as the entirety of Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay. The Calatayud campaign, in response, furnished Florida Politics with a text purportedly sent on the Perez campaign’s behalf last week also instructing voters to call a phone number that’s also found on Calatayud’s filing documents.

The texts were sent from a spoofed number, around the same time frame, the campaign said.

“Call Alexis Calatayud today (at her phone number) and let her know you’ve had ENOUGH of the extremism, corruption and lies,” the text says.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Republican Senate Campaign Committee (FRSCC) said that if Perez didn’t want her number used, she shouldn’t have put it on publicly available documents. She also called Monday’s news conference a “desperate” attempt to distract from an advertisement in another Senate race.

“Senate Democrats Lauren Book and Janelle Perez are desperate to turn the page from their racist, dangerous ad depicting a black man and children on shooting targets,” Erin Isaac said in a prepared statement. “Instead of taking responsibility for this gross ad, Book and Perez want to claim they are victims.”

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee put out the mailer referenced by Isaac in support of Sen. Loranne Ausley. It focused on gun control and shows Republican Senate District 3 candidate Corey Simon, who is Black, on a target stand. Perez is mentioned on a disclaimer on the flip side.

The anti-Perez texts from the FRSCC specifically target Perez for her managed health care business, Doctors Healthcare Plans Inc. It also accused Perez of specifically harming people.

“Seniors get SICK, their coverage is DENIED and Perez gets RICH,” the text says. “Now Janelle Perez wants to be your State Senator. Say NO to Janelle Perez by calling (her number).”

An anti-Perez TV commercial that the same committee paid for also shows a photo of her home.

Book decried the tactics that are being used across the state. The same thing happened to state Sen. Janet Cruz, she said.

“This will not be tolerated. It is unacceptable for Republicans to dox Democratic women, LGBTQ women, Hispanic women … in an attempt to win at all costs,” Book said. “Janelle and I will not be deterred.”

The tactics, Book argued, “are dirty, dangerous and they are the latest example of the GOP being out of step with the values of our community.”

Book recalled when someone threatened to expose her personal information, including personal photos.

Perez said she wishes Monday’s news conference could have been about something different.

“We should be talking about the issues that are impacting this community,” Perez said. “People are struggling to pay their homeowners’ insurance. People are struggling to pay for the roof of their head, food on their tables.”

Perez’s campaign called on Calatayud to condemn the threats that have been leveled against Perez and her family.

“Unless they condemn the ongoing threats of violence toward Janelle and her two small children, Republicans will continue to be complicit in these attacks,” a campaign statement said.

“Instead of running a race through debate and public discourse focused on the issues important to Miamians, Janelle’s opponent has not attended forums or debates — choosing instead to attack and slander with paid campaign ads full of lies.”

Calatayud’s campaign said they have not declined to debate Perez.

The Calatayud campaign issued a statement saying they agree that threats have no place in  this contest.

“We absolutely condemn threats being made against any candidate and continue to urge Book and Perez to take responsibility for the dangerous ad they sent depicting Corey Simon and children on shooting targets,” a Calatayud campaign statement said.

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Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


One comment

  • nail

    October 17, 2022 at 7:36 pm

    DeSantis and his Proud Boys at work. Since when does a governor of a state support and fund elections from white supremacist and white national groups.
    It wasn’t enough that 5 of the Proud Boys now under indictment for seditious conspiracy were arrested at DeSantis/Rubio fundraiser in Miami in May, now he supports a criminal cabal according to the FBI.

    If nothing else this authoritarian does scares you, this should….

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