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Some Hernando candidates turn to Facebook and other social media, though Twitter isn't there yet

BROOKSVILLE — The last time Diane Rowden ran for office in 2010, she didn't really use any of it.

No Facebook. No Twitter. No social media.

But that really didn't matter — hardly anybody did either.

"You just didn't even think that way," the District 3 County Commission candidate said. "You didn't think that was your way of communication."

Things have changed for some candidates.

Now Rowden uses Facebook, tweets, peppers her speech with talks of "friend"-raisers and has hired an 18-year-old campaign communications director who knows the ins and outs of social media.

This election cycle has seen more candidates turning to social media to cheaply and effectively connect with voters and fuel their campaigns.

"This time around, you've got to be on it," said Michael Burmann, a County Commission candidate for the District 1 seat. "It's really the most effective way of reaching the masses."

It has been slow in coming, but social media has finally come to Hernando County campaigns.

Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams says she has seen social media gradually grow more trendy.

"Every election cycle, it seems more are keeping up with that," she said. "You know, people are doing a lot of this now to cut down on paper. It's more feasible to use it rather than a lot of printing."

Jason Patrick Sager, a county commission candidate for District 3, is one of the most active candidates on social media.

His Twitter, Facebook and website are linked, and he has built one of the larger followings through social media. He also employs targeted Facebook advertising throughout the county.

"We are reaching out to people I would never have seen . . . before," he said.

Although social media use has increased, many Hernando candidates don't participate. Or use it in a limited capacity.

Facebook pages are fairly common for most candidates, but not everyone uses the social networking site for their campaign. Few use Twitter.

Richard Matassa, a candidate for the District 1 County Commission spot, said he uses social media to reach out to younger people and businesses. But he questioned its value.

"I don't believe it's extremely important in a Hernando County race," Matassa said. "I just don't think that's our geography, the makeup of our people. It doesn't seem as readily used as email or telephone or mail."

He has a Facebook account where he posts campaign information to his 44 friends and a Twitter account with three followers and the same number of tweets.

"We truly don't have a big following on social media," he said. His campaign gets much more response from telephone calls and email.

His approach to social media echoes that of many other Hernando candidates just now dipping their toes in the social media waters.

"I wouldn't discount it," Matassa said. "I wouldn't spend every waking hour on it. That's just the way it is."

Jimmy Lodato, a District 5 County Commission candidate, created a Facebook page earlier this month. He also has a website.

"I know the old-line voters look to talking face-to-face with campaigns, but young Republicans and young Democrats, they love going to social media. Alongside with walking door-to-door it's the face of the future."

Nicholas Nicholson, also running for the District 1 seat doesn't do Twitter nor does he have a Facebook campaign page.

He does have a website though.

"I think it's very important," Nicholson said. "Unfortunately, not a lot of people go to the website. I don't know at the County Commission level if it's used as much as in some other races."

Gus Guadagnino, a candidate for the District 4 School Board seat, does some campaigning on Facebook, such as promoting upcoming events.

But Twitter? Not much.

One of his opponents, Helen Villafane, doesn't tweet or use Facebook for the campaign.

Even School Board member Matt Foreman, a 29-year-old trying to keep his District 2 seat, downplayed the importance of social media.

"Quite frankly, I consider it to be supplementary," he said. "The best way to connect is through personal contact."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432; Laura Herrera can be reached at lherrera@tampabay.com or (352) 754-6114.

Some Hernando candidates turn to Facebook and other social media, though Twitter isn't there yet 06/22/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 12:46pm]

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