It’s been Toronto mayoral front-runner Rob Ford’s “secret” weapon.

Now Steven Del Duca, a rookie candidate for Vaughan council, has become one of the first candidates in the GTA to use U.S.-style telephone town halls.

He’s singing the praises of the technology, primarily because it allows him to “connect” with hundreds, if not thousands, of voters in his ward.

Yes, that annoying automated robocall initially contacts your home to with a pre-recorded message from the candidate, asking if you want to speak with him or her.

If curiosity gets the better of you and you accept, like a call-in radio show you get to ask the candidate questions and listen in, sometimes for surprisingly long periods. Candidates can gather valuable information by asking voters to press keys to register their views on issues and who they support.

In Del Duca’s case, the high number of people who engaged in the phone chat provides insight into how Ford may have started connecting successfully with voters as far back as May.

Ford has not revealed the “retention” breakdown of his first town-hall call to 7,591 residents in Scarborough in May, but if Del Duca’s numbers are any indication, he had reason to send out gushing news releases in support of it.

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