Social media showing its negative side in Republican primary


Gov. Butch Otter receivied a firsthand look at a natural gas well last week from representatives of Alta Mesa energy company.

The use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter has become more prevalent in the political world as candidates, parties, and elected officials look to reach potential voters and constituents through every possible communication medium.  The use of these tools is beneficial to candidates in offering politicians the ability to post lightning-fast responses to bad press and allows them to share links and pictures of campaigns or other official duties.   But social media can also be used against candidates, as is happening in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District Republican primary contest between Vaughn Ward, a Marine reservist, and state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle.

For those who think Labrador went too far in going after Ward’s wife Kirsten for working at  in the information technology department at Fannie Mae, a government-supported home lending agency, while her husband campaigns against bailout dollars, which Fannie Mae has been a recipient of, Mark Trail of Rathdrum, Idaho, a small town near Coeur d’Alene in north Idaho, has you covered.  Trail formed a group called “Tell Raul Labrador to stop bashing Vaughn Ward’s wife!” on Facebook and has invited others to join, though only five others have agreed to become members of the group.  The “wall,” or the central meeting and posting place for the group, features a message from Trail explaining what happened at the debate, according to him, and and a link to Labrador’s fan page to voice displeasure directly to the candidate.

Trail, who works for the campaign as a volunteer, said he formed the group to urge Labrador to refocus his message.  “This campaign needs to be about issues,” Trail said.  Many times in political campaigns, volunteers or even high-level staffers will use social media outlets and blogs to tear down an opposing candidate, often times with the approval of a campaign manager or communication director.  Trail says that is not the case with his group.  “I do not speak for the campaign.  I speak for myself and I did it on my own volition,” he said.  He said that he works for the Ward campaign in get-out-the-vote door knocking efforts.

One of the advantages of social media is the anonymity that can be used as a tool to attack political foes.  Though Trail is forthright about his identity and the functions of his group, not everyone is, including someone using Twitter to knock Ward.  The Twitter account is named “No2VaughnWard,” and regularly heckles Ward for his policy positions and the trouble he has been having with his campaign as of late.  Some of the more recent posts from the account question Ward’s geography skills in relation to Puerto Rico (where Labrador was born; in a debate, Ward said it was a foreign country), mocks former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s impending visit to Boise to stump for Ward, and claims that Ward is a slick politician and Washington, D.C., insider.  “Vaughn Ward PLAGIARIZED quotes from other politician’s websites. I learned not to do this in Junior High English class,” reads one of the Twitter posts from Tuesday.  The account has the ability to be a major voice in the social media realm of the campaign; the “No2VaughnWard” account has only 50 fewer followers than Ward himself, who boasts 740, and Labrador, who has 533 followers.

Though the identity of the person behind this Twitter account is not known by IdahoReporter.com, Labrador spokesman Dennis Mansfield said that the tweets, or messages sent via Twitter, are not coming from inside his camp.  “I know who it is, but it’s not coming from inside our campaign,” Mansfield said.  Like Trail and his anti-Labrador group on Facebook, Mansfield confirmed that the person behind the anti-Ward Twitter account is a Labrador supporter but not a campaign worker.

Requests for an interview from IdahoReporter.com to the individual behind the “No2VaughnWard” Twitter account have not received any response.

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Two social media accounts have formed to oppose specific candidates in Idaho, Two social media accounts have formed to oppose specific candidates in Idaho, Two social media accounts have formed to oppose specific candidates in Idaho, Two social media accounts have formed to oppose specific candidates in Idaho, Two social media accounts have formed to oppose specific candidates in Idaho
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  1. Mark Trail

    I was the one interviewed for this article and there is one important piece that I mentioned that you missed, Kirsten Ward works in the Information Technology Department and has for 11 years! She does not, nor could she have anything to do with Fannie Mae’s failings. I think that is pretty critical information for a fair non-bias report.

    I also find the Labrador supporter’s anonymity rather interesting, since if I am going to say something I am happy to stand behind it and explain it.

  2. Kevin Hudson

    This article made me laugh. Mark Trail is forthright about his FB page and it’s intentions, yet you go in depth about this “anonymous” Twitter account. This is junk reporting by Dustin Hurst. I’d say he should be talked to by his supervisor about biased reporting, but that would mean his mommy would have to wake him up and it’s way past his bedtime…….

  3. Mark Trail

    Dustin, I don’t know that I would accuse you of bias. However, I had a friend in South Korea who knows nothing about the race tell me that the department Kirsten worked in as well as length of time she worked there was important for context. It’s like saying you have a cousin who works at a prison, but leaving out the fact that it’s as an inmate trustee.

    Ask yourself this as a journalist, IF she was a lobbyist for them or had worked in a department directly responsible for their failings, would you have mentioned it? Sometimes what an article doesn’t say is as important as what it says.

    Dustin, I have been interviewed a lot and overall I think you tried to be fair, I just think you need to think about context. If your married, you should know that in a discussion with your wife, context is everything!

  4. Courtney Wiley

    Although I do not know the specifics behind this story, I was interested in the mention of politicians utilizing social media apps to reach the masses. I would like to comment on the value of these Gov 2.0 tools when it comes to politics and the Open Government Initiative.

    I’m employed at INgage Networks, an enterprise social media provider for government agencies and businesses. We’ve worked more than 10 years to bring government closer to the people by using technology. Since 1999, we have definitely witnessed an increase in the use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter as candidates, parties, and elected officials look to reach potential voters and constituents through every possible communication medium.

    We actually have a starter kit for those who are looking to make headway into Gov 2.0 applications: http://www.ingagenetworks.com/government.

  5. Dustin Hurst

    Mark,

    Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate your honesty. I am actually getting married this weekend, so I will remember to put everything in context for my future wife. Happy voting on May 25!

  6. Mark Trail

    Dustin congrats! Remember…context! “Hey honey I just had coffee with my ex-girlfriend Tina” is much different than, “John and his wife Tina who I dated a million years ago had coffee today, seeing her reminds me of how lucky I am!”

  7. claude

    Its cute to see Mark Trail here. Im following a link from the white house facebook page right now where this very same Mark Trail is threatening to use his second amendment option if the election doesnt go his way. Hes also calling everyone who disagrees with him homophobic names. WTG Mark! BTW, i have screen shots. :)

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