NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 7, 2013

A new-fashioned way of running for office

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Local political campaigns have been traditionally grounded in fundraising and sign-carrying, but City Councilor Ari Herzog appears to be one of the first to successfully wage a modern online initiative.

In the wake of Tuesday’s municipal election, Herzog emerged third in the at-large voting for City Council. (Early returns telephoned to the city’s clerk’s office initially had him the top vote-getter; a more thorough vote count yesterday placed him in third.)

In generating 2,893 votes, Herzog won his third straight term as a councilor.

Unlike most candidates, he raised no money nor did he create a formal re-election committee. And Herzog put out just 24 modest signs, printed four years ago.

Yet the 38-year-old Herzog was aggressive with online campaigning.

He has a Facebook group (with 114 members) and a Facebook page (with 158 fans).

The former City Hall staffer maintains a blog and he sends out a steady stream of messages on Twitter. And he maintains an online newsletter. The link to his blog is http://councilorariherzog.com.

Though Herzog was outside holding signs and pressing the flesh on Tuesday, the candidate was managing a larger campaign initiative through use of online tools.

“I’ve been active of Facebook since 2005,” said Herzog, a media consultant who resides on Prospect Street. “Thousands of local people are online every day, and there are many ways to reach them.

“Knocking on doors is still the best way of meeting the voters, but online activity is an important part of my campaign — and it’s getting to be more valuable.”

Just prior to the election, Herzog splurged and took out $30 worth of advertising on Facebook. He said that the organization reported that 5,500 users in the Newburyport area saw his message.

About 55 percent of Newburyport’s 11,200 registered voters went to the polls yesterday and were generous to incumbents like Herzog.

Mayor Donna Holaday won her third term, and at-large councilors Herzog, Barry Connell and Ed Cameron were re-elected, as were Allison Heartquist (Ward 1), Bob Cronin (Ward 3) and Tom O’Brien (Ward 6).

New councilors elected were Jared Eigerman (Ward 2), Charlie Tontar (Ward 4), Larry Giunta (at-large), Meghan Kinsey (at-large) and Bruce Vogel (at-large).

Inauguration is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 6.

City Hall observers say the vocations of at least two councilors could be of use as the city prepares to undertake a modernization of its zoning ordinance, which could include the central waterfront.

Eigerman is a real estate lawyer and Tontar has experience as a professor of urban studies at Merrimack College.

Vogel owns the Plum Island Coffee Roasters cafe.

Vocationally, Heartquist is an executive assistant to the mayor of Amesbury; Cronin serves as a law-enforcement administrator; Giunta is a manager of heating and air-conditioning hardware company; O’Brien is a retired administrator; Cameron is a housing manager; Connell is a teacher; and Kinsey is a communications representative for the regional YMCA.

In other aspects of the election, City Councilor Greg Earls, who failed in a bid for mayor, was remembered by some voters Tuesday but their ballots had little impact.

Earls drew 18 votes as a write-in candidate for mayor and 40 votes as a write-in candidate for City Council, a position about which he fleetingly expressed interest.

Most City Hall observers saw the major issues of the campaign as the central waterfront and taxes.

Holaday during the campaign said that she looked forward to working with the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority to find a compromise proposal regarding future disposition of the NRA’s 4.2 acres on the river.

Herzog yesterday said he would encourage a meeting of stakeholders including the mayor, the NRA, the City Council, the Waterfront Trust, the Harbor Commission, the harbormaster’s office and municipal zoning leaders so that more voices can be heard.

Meanwhile, new tax bills are scheduled to come out next month — and the political dialogue might be reignited (once again) if property owners get charges that they feel are excessive.