News Briefs

Missouri highway patrol investigating hoax text claiming Rowden quitting politics

By: - October 20, 2020 5:55 am
Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating a hoax text message sent Saturday night claiming state Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, was quitting his re-election campaign.

The text, sent from a telephone with a 573 area code, began “Dear Voter” and reported that “family matters” that required “my immediate and undivided attention” were forcing Rowden to give up politics.

The text message arrived at 7:29 p.m. Saturday on the phone of a reporter for The Independent and was apparently sent to several others but it is unknown if it was widely circulated or targeted.

The text was signed as though it was from Rowden.

In response to an inquiry, Rowden said he had not sent any texts that evening and that he had “no idea what you’re talking about.” After a screenshot was shared, he texted: “That’s not me. Very concerning.”

Sgt. Marcus Reynolds of the patrol contacted The Independent on Monday and was provided with the same screenshot shared with Rowden on Saturday, which included the telephone number.

Reynolds said the investigation was in its preliminary stages and the next step was to attempt to identify who purchased or used the phone.

Former state Rep. Judy Baker of Columbia, Democratic candidate in the 19th Missouri Senate District race.

Rowden represents the 19th Missouri Senate District, which includes Boone and Cooper counties. He is seeking re-election against former state Rep. Judy Baker, a Democrat, in one of a handful of districts considered competitive in the Nov. 3 election.

Rowden said Sunday that he had contacted the Boone County Sheriff’s Office about the text and later that the highway patrol was involved.

“We’re trying to explore our options,” Rowden said Sunday. He said he saw two other social media posts asking about authenticity.

“This is the brokenness of our politics on full display, and we believe it is an intentional effort to interfere in the integrity of this election,” Rowden wrote on Facebook. “To clarify, I remain in this race and committed to serving the great people of the 19th Senate District.”

On Sunday, Baker condemned the hoax text on social media and in an interview.

“My campaign considers this very disconcerting,” she said. “Any kind of misinformation that enters this race is very concerning to us.”

The hoax text isn’t the only odd thing in the 19th District race in recent days.

Rowden posted in a personal blog and on Facebook that he and his wife have “noticed multiple times where we are certain we were being followed” and “someone came to our door late at night for unknown reasons.”

The post stated that “our political environment in America is broken. A once-shared desire to work together toward a shared set of outcomes has too often become an angry, militant race to grab power at all costs.”

In an interview, Rowden said he is not certain that the incidents are politically motivated.

“There is no reason for anybody to follow me unless it is to be used in a political way,” he said.

He is less certain about the person who visited his home late at night, he said.

Baker said she sympathized with Rowden and share his concern about his family’s safety.

“I strongly condemn any intimidation, stalking, or threats made toward Caleb, his family, and any of our other public officials, candidates, campaign staff, and volunteers,” Baker said. “That kind of behavior has absolutely no place in our communities.”

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.