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Congressional Candidate Says Russia is Monitoring Campaign

The campaign website of congressional candidate David Holden

With growing concerns of Russian hacking heading into the midterms, a Democratic candidate for Congress says Russia has been keeping a close eye on his campaign. 

In the home stretch before Primary Election Day, David Holden decided to make some cosmetic and content changes to his campaign website — during which, something odd stuck out.

“On Aug. 14, our deputy campaign manager, Chris Raleigh, noticed some unusual traffic, as he was going through the analytics," Holden said.

What was "unusual" about it was that it was coming from Russia.

Raleigh took that realization and decided to track the foreign IP addresses back to their source.

“We saw that we were not only getting hits from the area in and around the Kremlin, but that we had been literally from the day I became an official candidate on July 3, 2017," Holden said. "That amounted to hundreds of unique visits and well over a thousand hits on the site from Russian-based IP addresses.”

The campaign’s discovery came on the heels of Florida’s U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott exchanging verbal blows over Nelson’s claims that Russia had penetrated several counties’ elections systems across the state.

“There’s a difference between visiting and hacking," Holden said. "They’re jiggling the door handle to see if it’s loose.”

Despite the long history of Russian-based traffic to his site, Holden said he didn’t feel he was being exclusively targeted.

“We are sure that we are not unique," Holden said. "I would imagine that every federal candidate — and, perhaps, every candidate running in this country — is getting visits from people that are associated with the Russian government.”

Holden is running in Southwest Florida’s District 19 primary against fellow Democrat Todd Truax.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.