Please see update below.
Scottsdale Police Lieutenant and candidate for Maricopa County sheriff Mike Stauffer's Twitter audience recently jumped from around 600 followers to more than 2,600 followers, thanks to a number of questionable accounts.
Many of the new accounts seem fake, lack photos, and/or have zero or few Tweets. In some cases, photos of men have women's names, and vice versa.
In addition, Stauffer's popularity has achieved rock star-like status with young women from all over the country and beyond -- Florida, Michigan, California, Texas, and even Canada.
When a railbird alerted me to the Stauffer's, shall we say, newfound Arpaio-like celebrity, I put in a call to Stauffer's campaign manager West Kenyon, who didn't know what I was talking about, but promised to look into it and call me back.
After a quick investigation, Kenyon phoned to say that a volunteer responsible for maintaining the Twitter site admitted to inflating Stauffer's posse of followers by the thousands using various social networking gimmicks.
"They said they were trying to help us," Kenyon told me of the volunteer, whom he declined to name. "I'll take the personal blame for this."
Kenyon said he's spoken with Stauffer and that the candidate was "not happy" with his now massive following.
"Mike said he was really irritated this happened," Kenyon explained.
The situation is reminiscent of a Gawker story from 2011, where it was revealed that Republican blowhard and candidate for president Newt Gingrich had 1.3 million Twitter followers, many of them bogus.
"But if Newt is winning the Twitter primary, it's because of voter fraud," Gawker reported at the time. "A former staffer tells us that his campaign hired a firm to boost his follower count, in part by creating fake accounts en masse."
Asked if the Stauffer campaign had paid for fake followers, Kenyon replied, "Not a dime." He said he believed that the volunteer had used free Twitter-enhancing techniques.
Kenyon promised that the Twitter-bloat would never happen again, but he admitted that he wasn't sure how to purge the fake followers from Stauffer's Twitter account, or if there was even a way to do so. Twitter does have a "block" feature, but that does not delete current followers.
As for the rogue volunteer, whom Kenyon described as being in the 20 to 30 range, age-wise, Kenyon stated he believed that the volunteer "meant well," so he or she may not be axed completely from the campaign.
However, Kenyon said that the campaign might find "something else for them to do," like handing out fliers, for instance.
Sounds like a solid idea, particularly if Lieutenant Stauffer is to avoid a repeat of this, um, Twitter-gate. Plus, let's be honest, no one wants to be like Newt Gingrich.
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UPDATE 4:46PM: You can all sleep well tonight. West Kenyon just called me to let me know that Mike Stauffer's Twitter page is down to 504 followers after Kenyon did some serious house cleaning.
Seems, as one commenter noted below, you can kick unwanted followers off your Twitter page, and Kenyon has done so, en masse.
Mike Stauffer is now officially nothing like Newt Gingrich.
Here endeth the lesson.