Social Media Accounts of Candidates for the Maine State Senate

Deciding who to vote for in state legislative campaigns can sometimes be tricky because thorough coverage of local candidates can be hard to find. In the state of Maine,  state legislators in Maine are known for their accessibility. This may be because Maine’s legislative districts tend to be small; it may also be due to the friendly nature of Maine folk in general. Whatever the reason, getting in touch with candidates for Maine political office is both important and possible.

In this day and age, the quickest way to learn about state legislative candidates and to find their contact information is through social media platforms like individual web pages, Facebook and Twitter.  To help you in that process, the I’ve put together a spreadsheet with information about the social media presence of the 70 candidates for the Maine Senate in 2016, along with some additional contextual information. To download this information for personal use, click here for a Microsoft Excel file.

This sort of information changes all the time — if you have updated information about new accounts, please share a comment below to let me know, or write to james.m.cook@maine.edu.

New Lesson Plan: Frame Alignment Operations in Political Testimony

I’m really excited today to roll out my second lesson plan for the political transparency website Open Maine Politics. OpenMEPolitics.com has been mashing together census, social media, newspaper and legislative data for some time now, and now it’s time for me to turn my attention to education. As a professor of social science, I have a vision of political data as a source for learning about issues of representation, gender, framing, and social network formation — but up to now it’s all been in my own head. Sharing lesson plans for undergraduate university students (and upper-level high school students) is a labor of love.

So, I’m glad to introduce Lesson Plan Two: Frame Alignment Operations in Political Testimony, complete with:

  • References to Erving Goffman’s and David Snow’s theoretical work on frames and frame alignment!
  • Examples drawing from obscenity laws and Lenny Bruce on trial!
  • Primary Source Documents for students to find frames: testimony on bills before the Maine State Legislature!
  • An Interactive Padlet where students can post their findings!

Oh, what fun. Give it a whirl, and if you like the gist of it, please feel free to use the lesson plan in your own work with students (a nice link for attribution is all I need.)

This State Legislator Brought to You By…

Are you a social media user, or are you a platform for someone else’s app?

California state legislator Das Williams has signed on with the communication management service Constant Contact; it’s written all over his social media presence.  The company offers its paid users the option of automatically posting copies of e-mails online and linking to those e-mails through automated posts to Twitter.  But with every automatic Twitter post, Constant Contact has added the hashtag #constantcontact in bold blue.  People clicking on the hashtag won’t be taken to Das Williams’ messages; instead, they’ll be taken to a separate Twitter page with an advertisement for Constant Contact on top.

Das Williams on Twitter, constantly promoting constant contact

Rep. Michael Schraa of Wisconsin hasn’t posted to his Twitter account since July 9 of this year.  Nevertheless, he has posts on Twitter — automatic posts that say little good about Rep. Schraa (he has mild turnover among followers), highlight his substantive absence, and advertise for a private company — the automated Twitter metric generator fllwrs.

Twitter posts by Rep. Michael Schraa

Rep. Schraa’s experience with fllwrs may not be unique.  Google autocomplete indicates that the most common searches associated with fllwrs are “fllwrs unsubscribe” and “fllwrs stop.”  Those who are unable to stop their accounts’ association with fllwrs will continue to be billboards for the company, which in turn posts advertisements on its website to monetize its work.

Twitter is a medium through which people can communicate.  If they’re not careful, however, people can be transformed into a medium through which companies advertise.  Users can be used.

Presentation April 22 ’15: Open Maine Politics

Maine friends and colleagues: I’ll be delivering a public lecture this upcoming Wednesday at the University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library. The subject is the Open Maine project, an effort to bring Maine state legislative information into the open information age. I’d love your feedback — and as usual for the UMA Research and Pedagogy series there will be nibbles.


Maine State House, Winter 2015Open Maine: Making Politics Social
A Presentation in the Research and Pedagogy Colloquium Series

James Cook, Assistant Professor of Social Science
Wednesday, April 22, 12 noon
University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

For most of Maine’s history, the records of its state politics have been officially accessible but practically unavailable.  Before the internet age, information about the legislature was kept in side rooms and libraries at the State House in Augusta, making our collective decisions available only to those who had the time and money to stalk about the stacks.

In recent decades, the website of the Maine State Legislature has taken great strides toward making information about the Pine Tree State’s legislature, our legislation and our legislators available to all.  Some roadblocks remain, however:

  • Maine legislative information isn’t easily shared through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media;
  • Maine legislative information isn’t easily mixed and downloaded for analysis by academics, journalists, citizen bloggers or the curious;
  • It isn’t easy for us to engage in conversation about legislation and legislators in the same environment where raw information is made available;
  • It isn’t easy for us to create, post and share our assessments of our legislators based on transparent and verifiable standards.

This RaP colloquium at the University of Maine at Augusta will present the result of a Presidential Research Grant kick-starting Open Maine, an online civic engagement and education project to make Maine legislative politics shareable, mixable, downloadable, conversable, assessable and transparent. Presentation of the new platform and research outcomes will be followed by discussion and a brainstorm on future development. Students, staff, faculty and members of the public are welcome.

Fire a Nebraska Catholic School Teacher, Hear About it in Maine… the Twitterverse Reverberates

#LetMatthewTeach is a hashtag protesting the firing of a Nebraska Catholic school teacher for being gay.  Last week, #LetMatthewTeach was one of the top three Twitter hashtags used by state legislators in Maine, two thousand miles away from the scene of the kerfuffle.  Clearly, social media can bridge distance in some interesting ways.  I describe some other trends in social media use by Maine state legislators last week in a post to the Open Maine Politics Blog.

Opening Maine Campaign Contribution Data Gets Tricky

Over the past year, I’ve been developing an Open Maine Politics website to mix, share and make social a variety of kinds of information about the Maine State Legislature.  Campaign finance profiles for legislators are part of the developing picture, but this weekend I’m hitting a speed bump as inconsistencies in the Maine Ethics Commission’s official dataset force me to look more closely at each case and fix errors one by one.  Cleaning the data feels like spring cleaning.  At least the season’s right.