One candidate running for the state Senate has accused her primary opponent of hacking into her Facebook account.
Tanya Hildenbrand, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 57th State Senate District, filed a police report accusing Bob Romanik, a radio show host who is also running in the March 20 GOP primary, of hiring a private investigator to find incriminating evidence against her and of having someone hack into her Facebook account.
Romanik denied the accusations.
The two Belleville residents are both hoping to replace state Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, who is not running for re-election. Christopher Belt, of Cahokia, is the only Democrat running for the seat.
Hildenbrand said she saw her account was logged into by someone in Kansas City.
In the police report, released by the Belleville Police Department under a Freedom of Information Act request, the person Hildenbrand is accusing is redacted. However, Hildenbrand confirmed to the BND she filed a report against Romanik.
“She believes that the person that hacked her account maybe hired an associate of (Romanik) attempting to follow her campaign activities,” the report said.
The report also said she has taken measures to secure her personal safety.
“Hildenbrand stated that (Romanik) has a talk radio show that insights (sic) racial tension and hatred,” the police report said. “She stated his listeners support violence and she fears that his listeners and supporters may attack her or damage her property.”
Romanik denied encouraging harm upon her.
“She’s trying to get some legs because she (doesn't) think she could win the election. Now she’s going to try to get some sympathy because she’s worried about her life for what I talk about on the radio,” Romanik said. “I never once threatened her, attempted to threaten her, I don’t wish violence or mayhem on anybody.”
"For her to tie up a police report to try to get recognition, notoriety, and sympathy, I think that’s totally wrong," Romanik said.
Hildenbrand said she did not open an email or click on links that could be phishing scams, and that she changed her passwords and added security measures after discovering someone logged onto her Facebook account.
Hildenbrand said pictures were downloaded off of her page, altered and placed on Facebook pages supporting Romanik. Photos were altered to say she was supported by Black Lives Matter and that she received $500,000 in campaign funds. Hildenbrand said the statements are false.
“I don’t know anybody from Black Lives Matter, nor has Black Lives Matter reached out to me," Hildenbrand said.
Hildenbrand told police that a photo of her and Jason Madlock, a black Republican running for the state House of Representatives, was taken off her page and it later was posted to show support from Black Lives Matter. This was done on Martin Luther King Day, Hildenbrand said.
“She observed some of the posts from his followers that were racist and degrading,” the report said.
Hildenbrand said in an interview that comments on Facebook questioned whether her and Madlock are dating.
“There’s a difference between someone downloading a Facebook picture and then modifying like they did … and fabricating an entire issue. On top of it he’s trying to incite people with fabricated information," she later added. "That’s beyond just political propaganda. This is beyond what typically happens in political campaigns."
Romanik said he didn’t ask anyone to hack into Hildenbrand’s account and wouldn’t know how to do so.
“She’s a … liar. She’s making a damn false police report. I’ll take a polygraph test, if she’ll take one.”
Romanik said Hildenbrand's own language can be seen as dangerous.
"She made a comment on her Facebook page that I’m a racist," Romanik said. "If her premise is what I’m saying is going to hurt her, what she’s saying about me being a racist, every black person in town is going to try to kill me and hurt me, if they think I’m a racist."
Romanik said people using Photoshop to alter photos is satire. Some of those photos are on the Friends of of Bob Romanik Reaper Facebook page.
“I don’t have anything to do with it, other than I tell them, don’t put anything on there that’s not true that could be hurtful, that could get somebody hurt," Romanik said. "I don’t mind the lampooning.”
Romanik said Hildenbrand is a public figure because she’s running for office.
“She’s got to have some thick skin,” Romanik said.