The voice comes on the telephone line, abruptly announcing a “Code Blue” alert to Hamburg residents.
Is it a missing child? A release of hazardous gas? A road closed?
No. The caller says it’s an “identity theft alert,” but it’s quickly clear that this is a political call, and the identity in question is that of a well-known Hamburg political family.
The call is a pre-recorded, automatic call known as a “robo call,” often used in political campaigns to get a message out to a large number of voters.
The robo caller says that Mike Quinn, who is a Democratic candidate for Hamburg town councilman, “is deliberately attempting to confuse voters” into thinking he is a member of the Jack Quinn family.
“The fact is, he’s not related to Jack Quinn, and Jack Quinn endorses his opponent, Amy Ziegler,” the caller says.
But which Jack Quinn is the caller talking about?
There’s Jack Quinn, the Hamburg resident who was elected to the Assembly in 2004, and who served until 2011. There’s also his father, Jack Quinn, the former Hamburg supervisor and congressman who now heads Erie Community College. Both are Republicans.
For the record, Mike Quinn is not related to the Jack Quinns, according Mike Amodeo, the vice chairman of the Hamburg Democratic Party.
Republicans say Mike Quinn is trying to capitalize on that name recognition, posting signs that look similar to those Jack Quinn used in the previous campaigns.
Democrats are calling on the Republicans to stop all robo calls. Amodeo said he has heard from people who first thought the call was an emergency notification, similar to the town’s new CodeRED system, then were frustrated when they realized it was a political call.
Republicans stand behind the facts in the call, and maintain that Mike Quinn is the one trying to confuse voters.
Republican Chairwoman Barbara Lipka said residents and Democratic strategists have told GOP party members that it is Quinn’s strategy to use his name to confuse voters.
The robo call also says Mike Quinn’s campaign signs look like those of Jack Quinn.
“Mike Quinn has even made his campaign signs look like Jack Quinn’s, to try to fool you into voting for him. We don’t need dishonesty in Town Hall. Vote No on Mike Quinn,” the call says.
“You will see the signs and bumper stickers are identical to Jack Quinn’s,” Lipka said.
Amodeo said Quinn has never implied he is related to the Jack Quinn family, and he did not copy the signs.
“The whole sign thing is ridiculous. Blue is a common Democratic color for signs,” Amodeo said.
“It’s dishonest and he’s trying to confuse the voters,” Lipka said.