ST. PETERSBURG — The 2009 election is shaping up to be the most Internet savvy race the city has ever seen, with a slew of declared candidates launching Web sites, social networking profiles, YouTube videos and blogs.
Council member Jamie Bennett created a Facebook account and launched his mayoral Web site, which has its own blog.
In one post, he takes on the contentious issue of a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.
"My preference is for a stadium with a retractable roof on the existing property. But I am open to other suggestions," he wrote. "Let me be clear about a couple of principles: Under a Bennett administration, Major League Baseball will be in St. Petersburg. And with the economy in the shape it is, I hope the Rays submit a proposal that does not require public financing."
According to Facebook, Bennett is nonpartisan, though he has a history of activism in the Democratic Party. He also is a member of a group called Gay Marriage Killed the Dinosaurs, which takes a tongue-in-cheek look at opposition to gay marriage.
Mayoral contender Scott Wagman, a real estate broker, has a Web site that also links to his Facebook and Twitter features. On Facebook, he wrote that he digs Anita Baker and Caddyshack. His Web site has YouTube videos of residents talking about why they love the 'burg. In fact, his site seems to be more about what residents think than self-promotion, which supports his campaign's stance that he's still in the listening-to-voters stage.
Next up is Deveron Gibbons, an Amscot Financial vice president, who keeps his Facebook profile all business. It promotes his campaign, but gives very little insight into the man behind the campaign literature. Same goes for Gibbons' Web site.
Meanwhile, a handful of City Council candidates, including some incumbents, are just starting to build up their Web efforts.
Steve Kornell, who wants to replace Bennett in the District 5 seat, is a Breakfast Club and Nine Inch Nails fan, according to Facebook. On his Web site, he writes that he will fight for schools and economic development, but doesn't really say how he will create more jobs.
Council member Jim Kennedy's re-election site exists, but is totally bare.
On the other end of the spectrum, council member Karl Nurse's Web site promotes his pet causes.
Nurse and council member Jeff Danner, who is also likely to seek re-election, are on Facebook, too. But they seem more interested in keeping in touch with their buddies than reaching out to voters. For example, you can't even see Nurse's profile unless he approves you as his Facebook "friend." Facebook allows users to screen who can view their profiles, but most politicians leave their accounts open to the public.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected]