Underdog candidate finds silver lining in social media

Underdog candidate finds silver lining in social media »Play Video
Terry Phillips, an independent who lost a bid for Congress against Republican incumbent Kevin McCarthy, says Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Bakersfield, Calif., that voters want a new way of interacting with candidates, and social media plays a big role.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — One local candidate says even though he lost the election, he's way ahead of the political trends.

Terry Phillips ran against incumbent Congressman Kevin McCarthy in District 23, in what may have seemed like a long shot.

"I think the conventional wisdom is that unless you have a party behind you, you really can't get very many votes," Phillip told Eyewitness News. "I got more votes than people with parties."

According to the latest information from the California Secretary of State's website, Phillips now has 43,386 votes district wide.

Still, McCarthy's winning by a very big margin. District-wide, the incumbent has 73.8 percent to Phillips' 26.2 percent.

But Phillips sees those results as a very strong showing, though denies he was surprised by it. "I'm not shocked that I did as well as I did, I'm only surprised that it didn't cost more than it did to get the votes we did."

The challenger said he's getting more bang for his campaign buck by using social media.

"We raised a little under $50,000. So that's less than a dollar a vote," Phillips said. The challenger said his campaign especially made use of social media that other candidates often ignore.

"I spent, for example, five and a half hours on something called 'redd-it.' It's an interactive website," Phillips said. "I was being interviewed by people all over the district and around the country."

Phillips thinks that's an important new tool, and it's a way to give voters more in-depth answers.

"It can't just be about what parties produce, it has to be a conversation," Phillips said. "People want details."

The newly-drawn 23 Congressional District takes in parts of three counties, and McCarthy has large leads in all of them.

In Tulare County, McCarthy has 68 percent to Phillips' 32 percent. McCarthy has 66.3 percent in the Los Angeles parts of the district, compared to Phillips' 33.7 percent.

And in the Kern County portion of the district, McCarthy has 75.4 percent to Phillips' 24.6 percent.

McCarthy is a well-known incumbent. He was first elected to Congress in 2006. That was after he served in the California State Assembly, and before that McCarthy worked on the staff of Congressman Bill Thomas.

Phillips was born in Fresno, and has lived in Bakersfield for the past eight years. He's worked as a journalist.

The challenger is convinced that more voters want a choice other than candidates from the two major political parties. He thinks that's the other new trend.

"You see people that are tired of the old system," Phillips said. "I believe in my life time we'll see more registered independents than Democrats or Republicans."

He's grateful to his supporters who wanted something different, and Phillips is thinking of the some 43,000 voters who cast ballots for him.

"Right now I want to find a way to keep the momentum going," Phillips said. And, he might run again -- if asked.

"There are people who want to have a voice in Congress, and who clearly said that they're not being represented," Phillips said. "I want to be of service to them, whether it's in Congress or not in Congress."