Published: Mar 17, 2014 3:49 PM EDT
Updated: Mar 17, 2014 6:27 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The campaign for Congress in Southwest Florida is turning distinctly negative, with attack adds flying and candidates bickering among themselves. The latest development involves a phone call from one candidate to another.

"Hey, Curt, I just want to tell you about a big buy by the political action committee. There will be negative ads on her and on you," said candidate Paige Kreegel in a voice-mail message to Curt Clawson.

They are Republicans, running for the nomination to replace Trey Radel in Congress in Collier and Lee counties. Radel resigned after his cocaine conviction.

State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and Michael Dreikorn are running in the four-person race on the Republican side.

Benacquisto is the "her" that Kreegel refers to in his phone message. Sure enough, ads began running in the past couple of days, attacking Benacquisto as a liberal, and attacking Clawson on his business record.

"I found the message to be inappropriate. It made me very uncomfortable, and it's another example of a career politician playing fast and loose with the rules," said Clawson in an interview with WINK News on Monday.

The laws prohibit candidates from coordinating their actions with political action committees, which are supposed to be separate from campaigns.

Kreegel declined an interview Monday, but his people tell WINK News, he did nothing wrong or illegal. The note: anyone can go on the Federal elections committee website and see what political action committees are doing. It is public record.

At the same time, Benacquisto's campaign sent out emails, sharply criticizing Clawson on his business record in Michigan. It accuses him of taking government bailouts and paying lobbyists for help. 

Clawson says he took a company with $2 billion in debt in the recession and saved the company, and saved hundreds of good jobs.

Michael Dreikorn also is running for the Republican nomination for Congress. The primary is April 22 through 5 weeks away.