Maryland Politicians Miss the Tweet Life - Southern Maryland Headline News

Maryland Politicians Miss the Tweet Life


WASHINGTON (Jan. 29, 2010) - Official congressional life in 140 characters is passing much of Maryland by, while constituents from other states get instant Twitter updates from Capitol Hill constantly.

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. are the only members of Maryland's congressional delegation with accounts on Twitter, the social media update Web site, and they are barely used.

The rest of the state's Hill delegation are either not interested in tweeting, or are working to set up an account.

Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the two freshmen Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, are all leading Twitter users.

Gov. Martin O'Malley "tweets" a couple times a week from Annapolis.

"I'm surprised that politicians don't have them," said Brooke Liu, a communications professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Liu, whose research focuses on government organizations and how they communicate during crisis and non-crisis situations, thinks politicians might be afraid of messing up on their Twitter pages—that they might be worried about how to do it right.

In a Jan. 14 report by Mark Senak, senior vice president and partner at Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C., the effect of Twitter on Capitol Hill was analyzed.

According to "Twongress: The Power of Twitter in Congress," 31 members of the Senate have Twitter accounts, while the House, "where there is the most Twitter action," has 107 members tweeting actively.

As the sole Maryland House member tweeting, Edwards has 11 followers and has had 5 tweets since the account started in October 2009. Her press office said her Twitter account is "in the early stages."

Cardin started tweeting on Jan. 27, moments before President Obama's State of the Union address and one day after Capital News Service inquired about his lack of a Twitter account.

When asked what prompted his Twitter interest, Cardin's spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said the timing was unrelated to the inquiry because his staff was already in the process of setting up the account.

Some Maryland politicians are working toward opening Twitter accounts, including Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., while others think tweeting is something to consider for the future, like Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington.

On the other hand, Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, and Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, are definitely not opening Twitter accounts.

"Congressman Bartlett never shies away from sharing his opinion, and he's usually very concise, but he likes using more than 140 characters," Bartlett's Press Secretary Lisa Wright said.

Ruppersberger just doesn't have time, his spokeswoman said.

Members of Congress who do tweet think those who don't are passing up a good opportunity.

"They're just missing out," Chaffetz's Press Secretary Alisia Essig said. "It is a way to communicate with your constituents in a different way."

Some politicians solely tweet news or politics and have their staff tweet for them, while others give their pages a little bit of personal flair and tweet for themselves.

O'Malley's Twitter account, which has almost 2,000 followers, is mostly updated daily by his staff, but his Press Secretary Shaun Adamec said "he has been known to sneak a personal note or two in there."

According to Senak's report, President Obama had 112,474 followers on Twitter the day before the Nov. 4 election, whereas McCain, his opponent had 4,603. Obama's campaign in 2008 was widely seen as successful because of the social networking media he incorporated.

In light of the 2010 election, Maryland politicians are failing to reach their constituents with these newfound tools.

"It's a really good opportunity to let your personality shine," Liu said. "It gives the opportunity to make you a person."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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