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Candidates turn to social media as election nears

on October 1, 2012

With a month left to the November 6 election, City Council candidates are turning to video and social media to engage voters and gather voter feedback.  

Candidates Nat Bates and Mike Wassberg last week released a campaign video attacking the Richmond Progressive Alliance for its support of the city’s plans to build bicycle paths in Richmond, saying only 2 percent of Richmond residents use bicycles.

The 12-minute video, produced by Wassberg, is presented in the format of a talk show between Wassberg and Bates, titled ”Tell it Like it Is”.

“This is the most dysfunctional city council I have served on in my career,” Bates says in response to a question from Wassberg about the divisions among councilmembers. “Basically it’s about gamesmanship and power plays. Usually when you have a council they try to make it inclusive of everyone, but this council can care less about having a unanimous vote.”

In the video, Bates accuses the RPA of trying to impose a “plantation mentality” on Richmond residents.

”That’s just a very poor use of city resources,” Bates says of the city’s plans to build bike paths. “They don’t go out and consult the community, there is less than 2 percent of bicycle users in the city of Richmond and we’re devoting $14 million when we have potholes.”

Bates compared the bike paths to the controversial measure N. Bates says obesity is a national problem that should be solved through education.

The RPA’s Mike Parker responded to Bates at the council meeting last week, dismissing Bates’ statement that the RPA was trying to impose its values on the community.

“Talking about the so called ‘plantation mentality’, it is the beverage industry that is practicing plantation politics in Richmond, that is where the divisions are coming from,” Parker said, “Do you think that they are spending millions of dollars because they care about the people of Richmond?”

Wassberg said he had produced the ”Bates for City Council” video free of charge for Bates’ campaign – even though they’re both running. “I want the people of Richmond to know who to vote for and who not to vote for,” he said.

Other candidates have used social media to spread campaign messages, with RPA candidates using Facebook to promote their positions on measures and propositions on the ballot. Marilyn Langlois, one of the RPA candidates, said her campaign had generated a lot of conversations on Facebook, but her campaign has focused more on person-to-person interactions with voters.

Tom Butt said his primary campaign tool was his website and widely circulated e-forums, through which he updates residents on the daily goings on at City Hall.

Eduardo Martinez, a retired teacher who got his first cell phone as a birthday gift two years ago, says his campaign strategy is based on in-person interactions with voters, many of whom know him from his days as a schoolteacher in Richmond.

“It’s new to me,” Martinez said. “I have been Twittering and have a Facebook page but I get stopped by people all the time while putting up my campaign posters and I have found that people are more likely to vote for you if you do things for them personally.”

Anthony Greene said his campaign was setting up a social media platform in the coming week. Jael Myrick, an independent candidate, has also been using videos for his campaign, which is centered on his efforts to unify the divided city council. “What Richmond needs is a leader who can cultivate that sense of unity,” Myrick says in his campaign video.





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