PITTSTON — As the November election fast approaches, regional bloggers and some of the politicos many of them write about hobnobbed over drinks and pizza Friday night at the eighth semiannual Blogfest at The Red Mill tavern.
And it was no surprise that candidates in the most talked-about races in Luzerne County were some of the guests at the shindig, those races being for Luzerne County controller, Luzerne County council and magisterial district judge for Pittston.
Blogfest co-founder Ben Hoon, who writes under Gort42 on blogspot.com, said the event isn’t meant to be political in nature - although scores of politicians are invited - but rather an opportunity to socialize. And not all blogs have political themes.
Still, local candidates don’t think it’s wise to miss the event.
Jerry Mecadon and Alexandra Kokura, candidates for district judge in Pittston, were among the happy minglers.
Mecadon said he’s attended Blogfest before, but Friday was was his first time there as a candidate. “I get to get together with people running for office, talk about their races. It’s a good time,” he said.
Kokura began attending last spring. “It’s another form of communicating and getting messages out there. And we’re excited to participate in events that get members of the community together,” she said.
Michelle Bednar, the Democrat nominee for controller, called Blogfest “a great event. I like to see the friendly faces. It’s just a happy gathering.”
Bednar, who hasn’t missed a Blogfest in two years, denied having a favorite blog, saying she likes them all. “They keep you up on all the goings-on you might have missed.”
On the other hand, Carolee Medico Olenginski, Bednar’s Republican opponent, was a first-time attendee. But she didn’t feel the least bit out of place.
“I never blogged, I never ‘Twittered,’ but I know all of them — Joe Valenti and Ben (Hoon) and all these guys,” Medico Olenginski said.
Valenti writes the popular Pittston Politics blog.
Other newbies to the blogger scene who arrived in the first hour were county council candidates Paul DeFabo, Richard Heffron and Renee Ciaruffoli-Taffera.
“I’m not a ‘techie’ guy, but I figured I better come because everybody else is going to be here. I wanted to see what it’s all about,” DeFabo said.
“It’s interesting, but it’s the way people communicate now,” Heffron said.
“I’m just trying to get a feel of exactly what they do,” Ciaruffoli said of the bloggers, adding that Blogfest itself is “a lot more comfortable atmosphere for candidates than our usual meet-and-greets. It’s a more easy-going atmosphere.”
County council candidates Eileen Sorokas and Mike Giamber have been to Blogfest before.
“I come every year. I love it here, I never miss it,” said Sorokas. “Since May 22, I’ve been to 114 different events, and this is an important one. … It’s good press for you, it’s very good for a candidate to be here tonight.”
Statewide candidates have attended the twice-a-year gathering as well.
Bill Goldsworthy, the Deputy Director of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Northeast Regional Office as well as a former West Pittston mayor and councilman, said Blogfest is a “great idea” that allows one “to see the faces behind the (computer) screen.”
Goldsworthy said he thinks bloggers have been treating Corbett fairly. “It’s the people who go onto the blogs (and post comments who might not be as fair) .”
Still, blog posts give the staffers of elected officials an opportunity to “get a different feel” for people’s opinions of actions or initiatives, Goldsworthy said, citing bloggers’ and their readers’ reactions to Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania initiative released last week.