You can’t WIN at Local Politics by threatening Local Bloggers

TLDR; version:  I am supporting Shanon Materio for District 5 Commissioner in Tuesday’s Election. My support for Shanon was met by a concerted effort to slander and threaten me on the Palm Beach Post comments, on Facebook and through a whisper campaign.

I have been hesitant to write this blog entry simply because I don’t generally write about myself, but the way this has turned out I feel that it’s something that needs to be brought into the open. I’ve waited to discuss this until now, because this election has already been cluttered with distractions from both sides. Regardless of which way this election goes, there are some important issues here which need to be heard.

[UPDATE] Shanon Materio went on to win the District 5 commission race.

A brief history

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years. My first blog was very technical in nature and started in 2002. In 2005 I started a personal blog where I discussed random issues. In 2009, when the construction of our downtown waterfront was in full swing, I decided to start a blog to document the changes that were happening downtown. This timing coincided with the start of having decent cameras on smart-phones. I started taking pictures from my Blackberry Curve 8900 and aGuyonClematis was born.

Through the eyes of aGuyonClematis, we’ve covered multiple Sunfest and Moonfests, parades, Ozzy coming to town, boat shows, and many, many turkey sandwiches. My personal philosophy is that there are hundreds of people taking pictures of the big changes, but nobody documents the small things that many times affect us the most. Some days all I took a picture of was a fire hydrant, and I was fine with that.

aGuyonClematis is about engagement. It’s about finding something unique, like a new dining establishment on Clematis, and letting people know about it.

Supporting the local political process

There is a general lack of engagement in local politics. Of the people who come out to vote for their president, only a tiny percentage get involved in local elections for officials who will actually make a difference to our day-to-day lives.

As aGuyonClematis matured, I wanted to help highlight the need for locals and young people to become involved and, most importantly, get out and vote. When Jeri Muoio ran for Mayor in 2011, I chose to support her. I posted this entry on my blog explaining why I supported her as a Mayoral candidate, and I continue to support her as Mayor. I supported our State Attorney, Dave Aronberg, when he ran and hosted an event for him. I also publicly supported Jeff Clemens and canvassed neighborhoods as a volunteer.

As Mayor Muoio, Rep. Clemens, and Dave Aronberg will attest, I have never been asked to endorse anyone, and I have never profited through my blog entries or volunteering.

2013 District 5 commission race

This brings us to the present.

Shanon Materio and Gregg Weiss are running for District 5 Commission seat which was opened after Bill Moss’ passing. I know both candidates and respect all that they do in their respective communities, however I chose to support Shanon based on her experience in the South End and the passion that she has for the city.

For full disclosure: Since I make better websites than anyone I know, I volunteered to make voteshanon.com and was paid $1,200 by the campaign. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

At a neighborhood event I had the opportunity to speak with Gregg, and I told him that I was supporting Shanon. He was gracious about it and I felt that we had a mutual respect for each others’ political stands.

This is the part where things started to get weird.

At the green market, on the last day of Voter Registration, I walked up to the voter registration tent to say hi to someone who I considered a friend, who was close to the Weiss campaign. Instead of the friendly chat I was expecting, I was shocked at the harsh words they had for me. Worse yet, it was in front my wife, kids and the Supervisor of Elections. While surprised, I chalked it up to “silly season” and went on my way.

At this point, I had not even come out publicly in support of Shanon. On February 14th (while I was under anesthesia from my wrist surgery) a commenter on the Palm Beach Post “West Palm Beat” blog decided to target me. Here are a couple choice words. Emphasis is mine.

HatersGoanHate1114719“So you used money from the Materio campaign to buy pizza and beer on Clematis St, Aaron Wormus? of course you did, but only at the places that “pay to play” on your joke of a blog. You’re not independent or fair, YOU ARE FOR SALE. … Real people on clematis laugh at you and know you’re just a wanna-be. You’d support anyone that will help pay those measly bills of yours. I he you know that while you have no political aspirations, your political involvement with people like Materio is gonna cost you somethingThe push to force you out of the downtown scene has started. Goodbye, euro trash on clematis

While this won’t be the first time that I’ve taken abuse from people on the internet hiding under a shield of anonymity (and it probably won’t be the last). I don’t take very well to threats, especially against my European wife.

What Aaron Wormus really wants is more money. He’s being paid by Materio to spew lies and stir the pot. In fact, he just told a bunch of people at Thursday nights forum that he enjoys making a mess of things.

At this point I’m actually wondering if they are mistaking me for someone else, since I wasn’t even at a forum that day.

The list of people on the Chamber BOD are REAL leaders, Aaron. Not someone with a silly blog and a couple of thumbs that can type quickly for a twitter feed. Trust me, each one of them is getting some personal reading material on the true Aaron. So maybe next time you want to open your mouth and bash this city’s business owners and leaders you’ll think twice. You crossed the line again, and your stock is dropping. And since being from here is so important to the Materio campaign, I can’t even imagine why you would matter. You’ve been here for like 5 minutes. Get a clue, know how the city works, and don’t be such a dunce when it comes to municipal government. You are out of your league, Aaron. A small but influential group of individuals are already working hard to make sure you aren’t listened to again. Well, no one really listened to you in the first place…

This is nothing more than intimidation. Trying to bully me into stopping whatever I’m doing that is pissing the campaign off.

In this next comment posted after the South End candidate forum, I’m accused of rigging a candidate forum. As a board member of the South End Neighborhood Association, this is a very serious accusation. For the sake of brevity I’ve removed a lot of yada yada. You can read the whole thing on the Palm Beach Post;

@Aaron Wormus, why don’t you keep your nose out of real business discussions and focus on beer and pizza and tweeting a bunch of teenagers. …  I heard that last nights forum was completely rigged for Materio, her answers were too precise and the questions asked to each of them were hand selected to give the monsters daughter a chance to swing for the fences while Gregg tackled the tough ones. I bet old Aaron Wormus had something to do with that, too.

The harassment didn’t stay on the Palm Beach Post comments, but moved on to my personal facebook page. After this discussion on facebook, a friend sent me a direct message me to tell me that I should delete the thread. My response was that  we should not allow ourselves to be bullied, and threatened and then delete it and pretend it didn’t happen.

Around the same time, several of my friends called me saying that they had heard that I was saying nasty things about the Weiss campaign. Everything I have ever said is public either here on my blog or on comments I wrote on the West Palm Beat blog. I make sure to use my real name on every comment I write.

I understand that it is “silly season” and there is a certain amount political hyperbole that is unfortunately part of any political campaign, but to harass a supporter of your opponent is unacceptable. To make a concerted effort to harass a supporter who is also a local blogger is just plain stupid.

Here are the facts

I am supporting Shanon Materio for City Commission. Reasons are here. I have friends who are supporting Shanon’s opponent, I have no problem with that.

I’m not a political person, and don’t claim to understand the intricacies of running campaigns. Regardless of who wins the election, the goodwill that is lost in making ad hominem attacks on supporters is not worth it.

I believe that the reason why people enjoy my blog is because I do my very best to stay positive. I have NEVER said anything negative about anyone in the past, and it’s really disheartening when I hear people saying that I am saying things I would never say.

I care about my community, I think the more young people involved in every side of local government is a good thing. I will not stand for being bullied and threatened.

GET OUT AND VOTE

Regardless of who you vote for, it’s your duty to get up tomorrow morning, head to the polls and CAST YOUR VOTE! If you don’t know your polling location, look it up here. If you want to see what the ballot looks like, here it is!

On Wednesday when this is (hopefully) all over, regardless of who wins, I hope that you and I can sit down and have a beer together on Clematis Street.