Elections

They challenged 'the establishment' in Mississippi but hit a roadblock: Facebook

Facebook's new policy on political ads was a shock to two South Mississippi candidates.
Facebook's new policy on political ads was a shock to two South Mississippi candidates. TNS

For the underfunded candidates facing an uphill climb against "the establishment" in Tuesday's primary, that climb has become a little steeper.

E. Brian Rose and Richard Boyanton, who are challenging Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-4, and GOP U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker respectively, found out late last week they probably aren't going to be able to use Facebook ads, one of the cheapest and most influential means of reaching voters, USA Today reported Tuesday.

“The irony of the situation is that Facebook created this feature to mitigate meddling in elections, but that’s exactly what this has turned into," Rose told senior tech writer Jessica Guynn.

Facebook in late April announced a new process for verifying the identities of people placing political ads on the social media site. Rose and Boyanton said they weren't aware of the changes until ads were rejected last week, though Facebook said it followed up with emails to administrators of political pages. And since the verification process requires the use of a code sent to the candidates through the United States Postal Service, it's not likely to arrive before the election.

Rose said he had an online chat with Facebook officials who seem to admit that they didn't contact Rose in advance of barring his ads.

"I know this all came short notice and with no personal notification for the candidates effected (sic)," said a person identified as Facebook Advertiser support in a screenshot of a conversation supplied by Rose.

Not that the candidates don't have larger problems. Both face entrenched incumbents and a less-than-enthusiastic electorate.

"Is the election today?" one potential voter commented on a Facebook post Tuesday, a week before the actual vote.

Palazzo apparently isn't worried about Rose, either. He rarely if ever mentions his opponent and isn't debating or holding town halls with the general populations. Palazzo hasn't responded to requests for an interview or to meet in person with the Sun Herald.

Democrats, at least on the Coast, are more optimistic about Tuesday's midterm primary, which are normally plagued by low turnouts. For one thing, they have six candidates squaring off to see who the Democrats will put up against the Republican nominee, which is all but certain to be Roger Wicker, in the November general election.

"I think the Democratic vote will beat comparable elections in 2014 and 2010," said Renick Taylor, a member of the Harrison County Democratic Executive Committee.

Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis and the leader of the Democratic minority in the state House has the most name recognition on the Coast among them. And he's piled up a lot of endorsements of Democratic officials across the state.

Rep. Omeria Scott, a colleague of Baria's, is battling rumors that she has dropped out. She hasn't.

And perhaps the most well-funded among them is first-time candidate Howard Sherman, who has the added recognition that comes from being married to actress Sela Ward.

Then there are the newcomers: Jensen Bohrens of Benton, Jerone Garland of Kosciusko and Victor Maurice of Gulfport. Only Baria, Scott, Sherman and Bohrens showed up last week for a Democratic candidate forum in Gulfport.

You can find many of their stances on issues at a site launched by the Gulf Coast League of Women Voters.

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