The House District 47 race just went hard-core ugly with a reported third-party push poll call that has both the apparent target, Democrat Anna Eskamani, and the perceived beneficiary, Republican Stockton Reeves, expressing outrage Wednesday.

A pollster in a live-interview telephone call Tuesday night asked if the recipient’s views of Eskamani would change, “if you knew that she was born in Iran and has strong ties to the murderous, anti-American Iranian regime, which is the biggest producer of terror?” said Louis Reale, a Colonial High School teacher who lives in HD 47 and took the call.

Eskamani was born in Florida and has lived her whole life in the Sunshine State. Her parents were Iranian immigrants who fled the anti-American Iranian regime, became American citizens, started and raised a family and pursued the American dream in Florida.

On Wednesday, Eskamani accused Reeves of sponsoring the call, saying, “without surprise, Stockton Reeves has taken a page out of Donald Trump‘s playbook.”

Reeves insisted that is not true, and said he would never condone anyone saying anything like that for his campaign.

“I am very upset,” he said about the reported push poll.

Later, Reeves called back saying he’d called around, trying to see if he could find out who might be behind the poll, and found no one.

“We’re not dong it. I’m not doing it. our consultants are not doing it. … No reputable pollster would ask a question worded the way you read it to me,” he said.

And then he questioned whether there might be other motives behind it, perhaps a backhanded effort to smear him, rather than Eskamani.

Eskamani and Reeves are battling for an open seat in HD 47, which represents north-central Orange County. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Mike Miller is running for Congress.

Reale said on Tuesday night he listened to the pollster’s call on his phone’s speaker, with his wife also listening in. The first few questions clearly sought negative responses toward Eskamani, but were relatively mundane, he recalled. A woman caller asked him how he would feel if he knew about Eskamani’s former employment with Planned Parenthood, her activities as a community organizer, and her various liberal positions.

 Then came the question about Iran.

Reale provided the phone number of the call – from the 813 area code – and Florida Politics called, reaching a full voicemail box with a male name. Florida Politics texted an inquiry to the number but has not received a response.

Eskamani followed up by saying she still believes Reeves was behind the call. She accused him of a history of ugly, negative campaigning, citing mailers his campaign sent out late in the Republican primary season attacking his primary opponent Mikaela Nix.

“If he wants to spread lies about me and lie about his campaign, based on his track record this is how he operates a campaign,” she said.

Reeves strongly disputed that, saying whoever is behind the call “is not supporting me.”

He said that early on a campaign consultant had asked about whether Eskamani’s Iranian heritage ought to be an issue. Reeves said he replied that he did not want it raised, “in any way, shape, or form.”

“What difference does it make?” he said of her heritage.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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