Pittsburgh mayoral candidates take to tweeting

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Pittsburgh's mayoral candidates can stump through the city and deliver lengthy speeches if they want, but this year's contest also is being fought in 140-character pops.

Both candidates -- Democrat Bill Peduto, 48, and Republican Josh Wander, 42 -- run active personal Twitter accounts, frequently posting updates even as campaign events through June and July have slowed leading up to the Nov. 5 election.

They have very different visions for the mayor's office and Pittsburgh, but both agreed they want to create an authentic presence on social media.

There's no campaign staff behind their tweets, no adviser or robot producing those 140 characters.

When one follower accused Mr. Wander of sending an automated response with a link to his campaign website, he tweeted on June 25, "Sorry, it's really me ... ;-)" to remind his followers that he is really behind the keyboard.

And followers of @billpeduto do get a sense of his personality from his tweets, which range from hockey updates to links to national news items to retweets of Pittsburgh organizations.

"Social media is my muse," Mr. Peduto said. "It connects directly with everything I try to do and how I hope I could be branded. It allows me to be analytical, controversial and goofy."

Mr. Wander's tweets are also chirping a personal message to his followers and Mr. Peduto: He's still here, in person and online, to challenge the Democratic favorite.

"After the primary at least until the fall, there should be people still asking questions of both of us because there is still an election in November, although many people have forgotten," Mr. Wander said. "For me, I'm somewhat of a conduit of the public to ask those questions of Bill. ... I am your campaign.

Mr. Wander tweets often from @votewander about local news items, his media appearances and his disappointment in the Democratic Party's long streak of victories in mayoral elections with occasional hashtags like #welackleadership and #corruptioningovernment.

But Mr. Peduto rarely responds directly to Mr. Wander's tweets, saying he prefers to interact directly with his opponent rather than from the keys of his computer or cell phone.

"I don't usually interact with the other campaign. ... I think there's a protocol on how to interact and most of it should be in a public forum where there is still a decorum within politics that should be respected," Mr. Peduto said.

To Mr. Wander, social media needs to be part of that public forum.

"Anything we can do to engage people, to get them involved in the democratic process is positive. ... [Twitter] could be adding to the campaign if people are listening," Mr. Wander said.

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Megan Doyle; mdoyle@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1953.


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