Candidates use Facebook to engage voters
The campaign for the Republican nomination for mayor between incumbent Scott Avedisian and Stacia Petri is now being played out on Facebook.
Avedisian set up a Facebook page – “Avedisian for Mayor of Warwick” – on July 31, and as of yesterday at noon had more than 200 “likes.” Petri’s page – “Stacia for Mayor of Warwick, RI” – was created on June 27 and has nearly 900 “likes.”
But the pages reflect far more than online followers.
Both candidates are extending their messages by paying Facebook to promote what they are posting. Both are also using the social network to solicit comments and post photographs.
His page had two comments as of yesterday afternoon. Hers had scores.
Of the two, Petri is using Facebook most aggressively to get across her message. Over the weekend, her campaign page posted 15 times, as compared to Avedisian with 11 posts for the two days. She has used Facebook to feature photos of potholes and a “home for sale” sign with an Avedisian sign in front of it asking, “what’s wrong with this picture?” and to share articles from this newspaper and the Providence Journal. And she makes allegations that the mayor is trying to quiet her criticisms.
“I’m getting calls and private messages from people that are getting threatened by the mayor/city for posting their feedback on my page,” she writes in an Aug. 2 post.
In another post, she claims small business owners don’t want to put her signs on their property because “they are afraid of retribution … they operate in a state of fear. This is tyranny folks.”
Asked yesterday about the allegations, Petri said, “that’s the feedback I’m getting. This is what they’re telling me.”
By comparison, Avedisian’s posts are positive and solicit positive postings.
The posts share news articles and pictures of the mayor and volunteers. There are plenty of scenic pictures of the city.
Apart from one post that responded to Petri’s consistent referral to “urban decay,” which was later edited, Avedisian has not used Facebook to respond to Petri’s criticisms.
“We all know there is great stuff going on in the City of Warwick. Let’s get some pictures from our friends of all of the great things going on [in] Warwick. Send in your pictures to be posted that show why we are proud to live in our community to email@example.com.”
Petri has used her Facebook page to state she is a “passionate supporter of the Second Amendment” and to claim that a majority of voters do not favor gun control measures introduced by state legislators. And while not citing her source, she says there are an estimated 10 to 20 illegal alien children in Warwick schools that are costing taxpayers thousands every year.
The mayor’s Facebook page was news to Petri and her campaign manager, Roy Dempsey.
“I never went on Facebook until I started getting involved here,” said Dempsey.
Dempsey could not back up numbers on illegal alien children, but he was confident in Petri’s claim, which was the subject of a July 29 post, that less than 3 percent of tax dollars are covering city operation expenses.
Asked where the information is coming from, Dempsey said, “They are basically coming from Bob Cushman [former Ward 1 councilman and chairman of the School Committee].” Dempsey said tax revenues are going into legacy costs and employee costs.
Dempsey said Petri is “out there walking and talking. It’s a very targeted campaign, and she’s got the energy that is very important for a primary.”
Petri said there is no substance to the mayor’s Facebook page.
“There’s nothing substantial there. It doesn’t say anything. The only reason he’s doing it is because I’m doing it,” she said. She said that the mayor’s Facebook page “is more of the shroud that everything is OK.”
Avedisian, who acknowledged that he has started a Facebook page, said yesterday he would not discuss his campaign strategy with the paper.
Neither of the Democratic candidates for mayor, John “Jack” Kirby and Carel Callahan Bainum, have Facebook pages. Bainum has a website, but the link to Facebook does not function.
The primary is Tuesday, Sept. 9.