Anonymous texts roil NoVa Senate race

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With less than two weeks to go before elections in Virginia, things are getting ugly.

Virginia Democrats are trying to figure out who is behind random, anonymous text messages that voters received in the past few days attacking members of their party.

One message reads, in part: “OBAMA and his VA DEMOCRAT allies want to RAISE YOUR TAXES. Send a message. DO NOT vote for VA Democrats on 11/08/11.”

Another reads “Dave Marsden voted to allow Ffx County Schools to HIDE FROM PARENTS when they discipline kids. Ask Dave why.”

The latter text alludes to a vote Mr. Marsden, Fairfax Democrat, who is running against Republican Jason Flanary in the 37th district Senate race, took during the 2011 session against a bill requiring parents to be notified if their child is disciplined by school officials. Nick Stuban, a Fairfax County high school student, committed suicide in January after being suspended from school for buying a synthetic drug.

“It was a good idea, well-intentioned and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, but the bill was vaguely drafted,” Mr. Marsden said. “It was one-size fits all and would be applicable all around the state. When you notify parents, is it by email? By phone? It gave no guidance.”

Mr. Marsden said he called the Fairfax County superintendent and a school board member to craft a Fairfax County-specific policy to deal with it.

“I think Fairfax County’s doing it the right way by coming up with administrative board policies to deal with the issue,” he said.

Schools, for example, have cut down on the time it takes to tell parents that their kids are facing disciplinary proceedings.

As for the texts?

“It’s illegal to do this,” he said. “It’s a violation of federal law, it’s costing peple money, and it’s just wrong on so many levels to do this to people.”

Kiel Brunner, Marsden’s campaign manager, said that they’ve received at least 82 voicemails, text messages or emails in response.

David Mills, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia, sent out an email Thursday saying that the DPVA “has every reason to believe these text message are illegal and we are doing everything we can to determine where they are coming from.”

Mr. Mills suggested that recipients of the messages contact the office of Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, or file a complaint in small claims court, where recipients could receive between $500-$1,500 per unauthorized text received.

The Republican Party of Virginia is not the culprit, spokesman Garren Shipley (emphatically) said.

“We don’t know anything about it, it’s not us,” he said. “No, no. Not us. No, no, no, no.”

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