Oops! Shurtleff unveils Senate bid plans on Twitter

Published May 13, 2009 7:17 am
A.G.'s tweat an accident, but fellow hopeful Tim Bridgewater did it on purpose
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two U.S. Senate candidates had two very different Twitter announcements Tuesday in an event that served both as a sign of the times and a cautionary tale.

Tim Bridgewater announced to his Twitter followers in the morning that he was dropping out of the race for Utah Republican Party chairman to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett.

He did it on purpose.

Several hours later, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff suffered a Twitter spasm, shooting out a series of messages while on a trade mission to Israel, apparently announcing to more than 1,600 followers that he was also going against Bennett.

"I'm announcing I'm running at 12," Shurtleff wrote in part of a series of garbled messages, called tweets on the digital networking system.

In another he said he would have "all of the legislative conservative causcus (sic) and other senators and representatives there endorsing me. Time to rock and roll!"

He later sent a message saying he thought he was responding to one individual and quickly pulled down the messages, but not before they were widely distributed.

Shurtleff's Twitter epilogue: "Thinking of 'texting while drowsy' law after private 1AM tweet went public. Formal announcement on 5/20 about senate race and tweeting plans."

Kirsten Foot, a communications professor specializing in new technology at the University of Washington, said political campaigns are constantly looking for new technologies to reach voters and appear tech-savvy, but there are pitfalls.

"They want to look like they know what they're doing and they want to figure out how to use these tools without getting themselves in trouble," she said.

Bridgewater's Senate announcement went off without the hitches of Shurtleff's. He said in an interview that, as he traveled the state campaigning for state party chairman, delegates expressed their disappointment with the choice between Bennett and Shurtleff and encouraged him to run.

"We need change we need to bring young people back to the Republican Party. We're losing them and we need to figure out how we can change Washington."

He said the spending in Washington and bailouts from Congress are "contrary to the Republican philosophy and irritating all of us."

Bridgewater is forming an exploratory committee, which allows him to raise money to test his support for the office, and will make a decision later about whether to stay in the race.

Bennett is facing grumbling from the Republican Party, evident at the April 15 "Tea Party" rallies where participants booed the senator for supporting the first round of bank bailouts.

Bennett's campaign says voters are upset with Congress, not Bennett specifically, and believe they will be able to separate the three-term senator from their frustration with Washington, D.C.

Bennett said he hasn't talked to Bridgewater about his challenge, but welcomes the contest.

"As I've said to Mark Shurtleff, if he ever gets around to coming forward, welcome," Bennett said Tuesday. "I'm on the campaign trail, if he wants to join me on the campaign trail I'll be glad to see him. We will discuss the issues."

Tim Bridgewater bio

Tim Bridgewater was Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s education adviser during the governor's first term, responsible primarily for helping coordinate the state's No Child Left Behind programs with the federal government.

He ran twice for Congress, losing both times in a Republican primary to former state Rep. John Swallow, who was beaten by Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat.

Bridgewater served as Utah County Republican Party chairman and was a major fundraiser for President George W. Bush and the Western regional campaign director for Sen. John McCain's presidential bid.

He is a venture capitalist who founded Interlink Capital Strategies, a consulting firm that invests in business development, most of it overseas, along with Neil Bush, the brother of the former president.

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