How Facebook Helped Me Get Elected to the Maine House of Representatives

This is a guest post by Maine State House Representative-Elect Sean Flaherty. Flaherty is a 23 year-old Democrat from Scarborough, Maine who defeated a “well known and highly respected” incumbent by a vote margin of 56%-44% ” in a town where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 6%.” Flaherty says that “Although the history isn’t complete, I am believed to be the first Democrat to represent District 127 in the Maine State House.”

Flaherty credits Facebook and the internet as key tools in his campaign strategy. He shares his Facebook tactics and strategies below.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my speech nominating Sen. Barack Obama for President at my town’s Democratic Caucus inevitably changed my life in so many ways. Although I was living and working in Washington, DC, I had kept my voter registration for five years at my home in Scarborough, ME. When it came time to vote in the Primaries, I didn’t want to simply vote absentee at the caucus, I wanted to be there. And after offering myself to the Obama for Maine campaign, I was asked to give the speech on behalf of Senator Obama.

The next morning I sat on the plane back to Washington, DC. It was about 6:30am, the flight was to land before 8:00am, and I was hoping to be back at my desk by 10:00am. Somewhere between ordering my orange juice and having to return my tray table to the upright and locked position I thought about something that was announced at the caucus. “We still don’t have a candidate for House District 127.” At the time I thought nothing of it, but now as I sat on the plane, I kept thinking that it was a seat a Democrat can win. Hell, that’s a seat I can win.

A few days later, I decided I’d do it. I gave my notice at my job, took three different weekend trips to Maine and back to DC to get signatures, donations, and organize, and within 6 weeks officially moved back to my home town.

What was my first move of the campaign? Creating a Facebook group – Sean Flaherty For Scarborough.

I invited all of my friends, the ones from my home town, the ones from DC, and even the random people who I barely knew. The whole point was to spread the word and make it look like I had huge support before I even moved back into the district.

The group we created had a casual picture of me to start – not the typical suit and tie. The group talked about the fact that I was young and wanted to get involved for other young people – didn’t go on about policy and legislation. I enabled the wall for people to say things, feel engaged, and know that they could have an impact – instead of making it a static place for simply me to post.

After inviting friends, I wanted to help promote the sight to people I may not be Facebook friends with, but whom I knew. We “posted” the group to my profile, we wrote on the wall so it showed up in facebook feeds. In fact, I believe that many people were driven to the sight by seeing something about the group, or me, pop up in facebook news feeds. So activity, not advertising was big in growing the group.

That was the start – Facebook. It was essential for my campaign despite the fact that very few young voters lived in my district. In fact, less than 7% of voters in my district are under 25, and only 10% are between 25-34 years old! So how did Facebook help a 23 year old candidate in a district that was more than 80% age 35 and older?