Florida House candidate uses Pokémon Go to lure voters

Dan Horton (center) campaigns with Pokémon Go players in Key West on Saturday.
Dan Horton (center) campaigns with Pokémon Go players in Key West on Saturday. Dan Horton

Democrat Dan Horton is trying to catch ’em all.

On Saturday, Horton, a candidate for the state House, attracted Pokémon Go players to a campaign event in Key West by using in-game items to show his event's location on players' smartphones. Once people showed up to Horton’s event in Bayview Park they were able to catch rare Pokémon that were lured to the park.

“On Saturday, his campaign used the game to attract something even more elusive than rare Pokémon... young voters,” a Horton campaign press release said.

Horton, 30, is running in House District 120, which encompasses the Florida Keys and a swath of South Miami-Dade. He will challenge Kevin Diaz in the Democratic primary. Incumbent Holly Raschein is unopposed in the Republican primary.

Pokémon Go, which now has more users than Twitter, is a free game that uses a cell phone’s GPS and clock to determine where the player is located, then virtual Pokémon appear on the smartphone’s map. The app is the newest iteration of a Nintendo-owned series that once included trading cards and hand-held video games.

Horton says he came up with the idea himself after downloading the game. He was at Florida International University last week and noticed dozens of people crowding around a fountain to play.

“There was a family, teenager and grandmother all playing,” Horton said. “I thought it was so interesting that you have one app that becomes the new craze and appeals to all different generations.”

Horton then found a Facebook group for Pokémon Go players in Key West and promoted his event on its page. To attract players, Horton's campaign paid for “lures” that attract rare Pokémon to a specific area.

The lures were dirt cheap compared to campaign literature and TV ad buys. Horton says attracting rare Pokémon cost about $8 for three hours.

“People are tired of traditional ways that politicians try to reach them and manipulate their opponents,” Horton said. “If you do any work in marketing the most powerful referral you can get is word of mouth.”

Horton estimates 40 to 45 people showed up for the event, and that more Pokémon Go players would have showed if the event had been held in the evening.

Horton is an active Pokémon Go player himself. So what's his best catch?

“I caught a pretty good Charmander in Florida City,” he said.