It's weird enough when you see you got a text you weren't expecting from a number you don't recognize.
Stranger still: when you check your phone, and it's from the mayor.
Or someone "writing" on her behalf. This week, people in Minneapolis have been on the receiving end of personalized text messages from Betsy Hodges' reelection campaign. The messages call out the recipient by name, and refer by name to a person -- "Larry," in one case, "Adam" in another -- and then jump right into the campaign's message.
That message is:
"Betsy took the City's electricity from 1% wind and solar to 39% in her first term. She has us on schedule for 100% by 2022. Sound good?"
By the time it was through, one text had spilled over into a second... and more than a few recipients were wondering why they'd received either.
Anyone in #minneapolis get a text from “Larry” in favor of Betsy Hodges environmental record? Wondering who’s pushing this SMS campaign?— Jack Norton (@HistoryJack) October 17, 2017
I got a text that was like "Mayor Hodges has us on track for 100% renewable energy by 2020, sound good?"— �� laura (@ColaptesAuratus) October 17, 2017
I’d like to know what list “Larry” bought where I opted in to his unsolicited text message from Betsy Hodges. pic.twitter.com/tX2ih9CSao— Kevin Watterson (@kwatt) October 17, 2017
Numerous people have questioned how it was the campaign obtained their phone number. Kevin Watterson (above), who tweeted about getting the texts on Tuesday, is indeed political, and has an extensive background in campaign and communications work... as a Republican.
So, what gives? Is this, as one tipster asked City Pages, somehow an "illegal" use of private resources?
Hardly, the Hodges campaign says. Campaigning via text message is not only not criminal, it's common, according to Alex Steinman, communications director for the Hodges campaign.
"A lot of campaigns are doing this now, it's a 21st century campaign program," Steinman says. "Just like you would get an email, or a door-knock from somebody, that’s how we’re using the text program."
Steinman says the recent contacts are "one-to-one" communication, with each text received by a potential individual voter sent by an individual campaign staffer. (A phone call placed to one of the numbers behind Hodges campaign texts, one with a 763- area code, resulted in a message from Verizon that the call "cannot be completed as dialed.")
As for who wound up on the list, versus who didn't, Steinman says "both parties" (or individual citizens, for that matter) can tap voter information on record with the Secretary of State's office. From there, campaigns can drill down based on city, age, neighborhood, and how frequently one has voted in past elections.
"We've had a lot of success with the text program," Steinman says. "There's a lot of data showing people’s response rate to texts is better than email."
As for the renewable energy claim made in the texts -- seemingly lost, amidst confusion about why people were getting them in the first place -- one person wondered: Is this stuff even true? Turns out, it is! (At least the part about the city currently getting 39 percent of its electricity from renewables.)
"It is correct," Steinmain says. "Those facts are part of the policy platform and vision for Minneapolis, and we'll be sharing those accomplishments, and the mayor’s vision, to help us win in November."
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