Battleground Surrey: Candidates and (Social) Media

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

Many politicians and parliamentary bodies, including municipal Councils, are or will take a break over the next month and half to charge their batteries and to be ready to come back to work in full force in early September. Despite their hard work over the past few months some of those will be required to work even harder than before because this is election year. Municipal elections are coming soon, numerous candidates already announced their intentions to seek support and your vote, some are still waiting to announce. No matter what they will be faced with the media and there we’re coming to highly important situation, which is how they communicate with media and public, how that will effect their run and final result later this year? I’ll try to answer of some of these questions based on current situation in Surrey, BC and candidates behaviour over the last few weeks.

Three years ago at this time social media was not yet that important in life of average voter, far less in politicians lives, but today situation is completely different and requires more adaptation to present situation. Presence in mass media is important as it was before and if you miss your chances to be active in one of those your chances for success in November or whenever your next election day is are significantly diminished. One of the most interesting battles in BC this November will be one for the Mayor of Surrey which will decide future of one of the largest municipalities in this part of country and will chose successor to once mega-popular Mayor Dianne Watts.

So far in only three candidates announced their intention to run for mayoral seat while one is still considering her options but it is almost certain that she will be among them. Former Mayor Doug McCallum, Cllr. Linda Hepner, Vikram Bajwa are the names in the hat at the moment, expected fourth name is independent Cllr. Barinder Rasode.

Linda Hepner glassesLet’s start from incumbent Councillor’s and their presence in the media. Cllr. Linda Hepner who is chosen by Mayor Watts Surrey First party to run for mayorship is almost non-existent when it comes to mass and social media. Counting up to this moment (correct me if I’m wrong) Cllr. Hepner missed three chances to appear in mass media and answer question on many important issues including the most important crime. Previously known fact is that she was not extremely active on social media before, but now went into the total silence except rare ReTweets and answers on mild questions.

We can exclude here recent inquiry by The Surrey Leader civic reporter Kevin Diakiw on authorship of candidates/politicians tweets in which Cllr. Hepner indeed replied. She stepped once more out in media wilderness on Wednesday when she spoke with News 1130. In last few occasions Cllr. Hepner avoided to speak on very important issue crime and that will have great impact on her public image. Here is to be  concluded that if Cllr. Hepner wants to have better public presence and name recognition will need to get more active and more involved in media/social media discussion on all important issues. This is not anymore run for Council this is run for Mayor of half a million populated city and questions regarding her intentions/platform must to be answered if electoral body wants to have clear picture before casts ballots.

social mediaCllr. Barinder Rasode is one of the most active local politicians in the Lower Mainland when it comes to communication with potential voters, residents and media. Many would say that when it comes to media presence and name recognition Cllr. Rasode is right next to Mayor Dianne Watts not only because of their recent clashes but also because of their hard work in community. Cllr. Rasode is currently very present on social media and as it is seen by many, including myself, is one of the most approachable when it comes to public communication and discussion.

barinde rasodeRecently Cllr. Rasode started Community Hub as one of new ways to connect with community and to learn more about all important issues in every neighbourhood.  The next step for her is to announce her candidacy and to start hard campaigning which will include more media presence and probably more of critical views, commentaries and social media activity. Only certainty when it comes to Cllr. Rasode is that she has built very strong media presence and name recognition which could benefit her run later this year.

mccallumFormer Mayor of Surrey, Doug McCallum, who was ousted by current Mayor Dianne Watts came back recently into the media spotlight and he’s keeping it very actively. McCallum spoke with numerous media over the last week or so, most recently with Bill Good on CKNW Radio (Hepner refused to be featured on the same radio) and presented his campaign goals. According to Kevin Diakiw, Surrey Leader reporter, McCallum was the most mentioned municipal politician over the last month with just more than 1000 articles and just little bit more than Rasode, while Hepner was far far distant third. That shows that McCallum as experienced politician will use previous knowledge to put himself in favourable position, but as in any other campaign as time is passing by more and more questions will emerge which could make his position tougher and questions will become more concentrated on his previous service as Mayor of Surrey.

McCallum is present on social media but this activity caused some stir in Twitter Universe because some people including me were and are sceptical when it comes to authorship of his posting on this very important tool for any campaigning  politician. It must to be recognized that McCallum is not shy of getting into the discussions and exchanges of points on Surrey issues and knowing people who use social media he is going to have very hot summer. Remains to be seen how he will perform once when he gets face to face with Cllr. Hepner or Cllr. Rasode during campaign and debates.

It is important to say that the rest of Surrey First coalition and any if there is any independent runners for Council or Mayorship at the moment are extremely silent and not engaged in public discussions in the media or on social media. Once they enter the ring will be very interesting to see how they will perform and how they will manage hits from all sides.

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