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Candidates 'friend' potential voters

Facebook presence emerges as political weather vane in La Cañada City Council race.

February 22, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

Support from vast friend networks has always been an asset to those seeking political office. For the first time in the history of La Cañada Flintridge elections, Facebook friends count too.

Four of the seven City Council candidates in the March 8 election are using the popular social networking site to communicate with potential voters, posting notices about upcoming events, photos from the campaign trail and even newspaper coverage of the horse race.

Councilwoman Laura Olhasso was first out of the gate, starting a page for her reelection campaign in late November. With 92 followers as of Monday, she’s now the election’s Facebook frontrunner.

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And in this race, Facebook presence may demonstrate more about the candidates than their technical savvy.

While several council challengers have continuously attacked incumbents as long deaf to residents’ concerns, ironically it’s the incumbents — and not those critics — who have embraced social networks.

Mayor Donald Voss has maintained a Facebook election page since late January. Planning Commissioner Mike Davitt, endorsed by all five sitting council members, also has one. So does Charlie Kamar, who generally credits council members with jobs well done.

But former Planning Commissioner James Hill, registered nurse Jacqueline Harris and retired scientist Robert Richter — each staunchly critical of the council’s willingness to listen and respond to constituents — do not maintain Facebook pages for their campaigns.

Harris, 48, said she had built one early in the race but was unable to set different privacy restrictions for her personal page and her public campaign page. Rather than lower her personal privacy settings, Harris closed the public page, focusing instead on two election websites and a doorbell-ringing campaign that’s reached 2,600 homes and counting.

Richter, 80, had no comment.

Hill, 60, doesn’t use Facebook. Instead, he hopes to reach voters by publicizing his home phone number, which he’s even published in the sample ballot.

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