Social media gets ugly in local race

The ugly side of local politics reared its head prior to the Dec. 13 Buda City Council Place 1 runoff election between Lee Urbanovsky and John Hatch.

While there has been a record turnout so far during early voting, some residents are concerned about the level of discourse online among supporters of both camps.

Private forums on Facebook such as “Informed Citizens of Buda” have been a stage for vehement posts among the Place 1 candidate supporters.

Urbanovsky said that, because of the runoff election, he has spent more of his own funds on his campaign than he originally planned. Urbanovsky said going up against a career politician on a ballot alongside the presidential race costs a bit more money.

Hatch addressed allegations of supporters from both camps using Facebook and other social media platforms to lash out at each other.

“The other issue is the Internet vs. traditional methods of contacting voters,” Hatch said.

Hatch gave an example of spending $400 on a newspaper ad when his opponent posted a similar ad on Facebook for $0.

Hatch said the “Whispering Hollow” Facebook site, which he said reaches 10 percent of Buda voters, has been used to his opponent’s benefit and to his detriment.

The forum is a private one and interested users must first request to be a member of the forum before they are allowed to post, comment or view content. Hatch said he has been barred from the site by the forum’s administrators.

But the experience of social media by these candidates is not the same as a current Buda elected official.

Place 1 council member Angela Kennedy, whose seat Hatch and Urbanovsky are vying for, said social media was effective during her 2013 election campaign. Since then, Kennedy said she has used social media to communicate and receive feedback from constituents.

Kennedy said she has seen social media used by the Place 1 candidates and supporters to talk about qualifications and discuss the issues.

“I think all of that was good,” Kennedy said. “However, there was a bit of mudslinging by supporters, but not necessarily by the campaigns. Just like on any social media platform, discussions can get heated and feelings hurt.”

Even with the advent of social media, Kennedy said some former council members recalled local campaigns that got equally as heated without Facebook or Twitter in the past.

“Ultimately, political campaigns should be about qualifications and ideas for the direction each candidate envisions for Buda,” Kennedy said.

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