For someone who wasn't even on Facebook a few months ago, Joe Cimino has certainly embraced social media as an essential part of modern political campaigns.
In June, Cimino, Ward 1 councillor for the last seven years, made a high-profile entry into the race to become the provincial NDP candidate for Sudbury. Since then, he's created a Facebook page for his nomination, has an active Twitter account, as well as a website with lists of endorsements, policies, biographical information, etc.
“Social media is new to me,” Cimino said this week. “But it's not new to my wife, which is a benefit, as well as to some of the younger folks in my circle of friends.”
He doesn't use his city-funded Blackberry smartphone for his campaign, but said he's getting a better understanding of the power of social media by using his wife Luisa's iPhone.
“Social media has been a useful tool,” he said. “As I go to events, I can update folks who are following me. Definitely, it's all it's made out to be, in terms of updating people on what you are doing.”
Since he announced his run, Cimino has received a lot of high-profile support among traditional NDP backers in the city. His website includes endorsements from union leaders, fellow city councillors, university professors, etc.
And in July, he socialized and was photographed with federal Leader Thomas Mulcair and MP Olivia Chow, who were in town for a meeting on rail safety. He was also part of the roundtable discussion, the only candidate for the NDP nomination given a seat at the table.
When asked, Cimino said the support he's receiving is a combination of his experience in politics, and the due diligence he conducted before he decided to run.
“I didn't take the decision lightly,” he said. “I had a lot of support and kind words from a lot of long-time NDP supporters, many of which have been friends of mine.
“So I have found that since I threw my name in, yes, there are more and more people who are excited and coming on board.”
Paul Loewenberg, another high-profile candidate vying for the nomination, surprised many in the NDP in 2011 when he won the nomination.
While there were rumours that not everyone in the party was pleased with his upset victory over Sudbury and District Labour Council president John Closs, Loewenberg said in no way does he feel like Cimino is getting preferential treatment this time around.
He said while Cimino was part of the rail safety round table, it wasn't in his role as a candidate for the party, Loewenberg said.
“He was there as a city councillor,” Loewenberg said. “I was upstairs listening. I was at the luncheon with Mulcair and Chow. And when it came down to the actual meeting, I was happy to be in the gallery listening, and Joe was doing his job as a member of city council.”
Unlike Cimino, Loewenberg has been an avid user of social media for years. He has played a big role in the success of Northern Lights Festival Boreal for several years, and manages The Townehouse, a popular downtown bar.
His web page also includes several endorsements, although most are from fellow musicians – although one, Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, is both a politician and a performer.
“So I already have quite a public life, and that's something other candidates aren't going to have,” he said. “We all have our advantages.”
He came close to a shocking upset in the 2011 provincial election, coming within a hair of upsetting Rick Bartolucci, the longtime minister whose seat was thought to be among the safest in the province. So Loewenberg is going into the nomination meeting – expected sometime in October – with the same approach.
“We came so close last time,” Loewenberg said, about almost winning in 2011. “And with my name, we built up the riding. So we're fighters and we're happy for the competition. It just brings that much more attention to what our party wants to accomplish in Ontario.”
For his part, Cimino said his entry into the race had nothing to do with Loewenberg – it was a matter of him being ready for another challenge.
“I don't take away anything from what Paul did last election,” Cimino said. “I know he worked hard and we know how close he got. I give him kudos for that ... (But) it was the right time for me, and that's why I put my name in.”
And while he's happy with the support so far, Cimino said he will keep campaigning until the last minute.
“You're speaking to a guy who ran for council three times and lost two times,” he laughed. “So everything I do, I do 120 per cent, right? I don't take anything for granted.”
The long-time teacher admitted life is about to get very busy, between his council duties, school starting in September, being a father and running for the nomination.
But he says he can keep everything in balance until the nomination meeting. And if he wins, Cimino said he'll take an unpaid leave of absence from teaching as soon as provincial election is called.