TWITTER BROUGHT us news from Iran.

But can Twitter enlighten us at home?

A growing number of politicians and candidates are trotting out their Twitter accounts as symbols of their oneness with the people.

For those of you so far behind the times that you still own a Rolodex, Twitter is a free, Web-based social networking phenomenon. Individuals post short messages of 140 words or less to people called "followers" who have signed up to receive them.

President Barack Obama is an undisputed Twitter god: He has 1.5 million followers.

A half-million people follow Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Tweets, quite a few of which he posts himself.

When the governor's pilot detected smoke in the cockpit of his airplane recently, the governor Tweeted, "A little adventure just now when my plane made an emergency landing. All's OK, though."

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums recently started Twittering.

Gubernatorial candidate and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom leads the Twittering candidate pack with 613,000 followers.

Newsom has made such a big deal about his Twittering prowess that the snarky political site CalBuzz suggested he adopt a motto of "I Tweet, therefore I am."

Newsom's recent Tweets — and they are Tweets, not Twits — included a cash pitch called a "Tweetraiser" and a recruiting call for "Tweet Captains."

Newsom has twice as many followers as his Democratic rival, state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

But the Democrats are way ahead of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, who have fewer than 3,000 followers between them despite Silicon Valley creds.

Here's a clue. A Whitman Tweet said, "Just filled up with gas at the Boyett gas station. Now off to Visalia in our truck." Scintillating.

Here in the East Bay, folks watching the race to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher may want to get themselves a Twitter handle.

Almost all the declared candidates are Twittering although none as frequently as Dublin Democrat Adriel Hampton.

A new media expert, Hampton is thoroughly comfortable with the technology and even better, it's free. That's important in a shoestring campaign. (The married father of two young boys recently Tweeted, "Help me pay off credit card debt and keep my marriage.")

But candidates do not live on Twitter alone.

Twitter works best when candidates and politicians use it as a means to push links to in-depth information elsewhere, says retired pollster and CalBuzz co-founder Phil Trounstine.

"The revolution will not be Tweeted," Trounstine said. "Online has had a huge impact on campaigns but Twitter is just one piece of the picture.

"Most of what people Twitter is inane. The candidates are doing it because they feel like they have to in order to be hip."

Hey, that's why I did it. Is it working?

GOT POLITICS? Read the Political Blotter at www.ibabuzz.com/politics:

  • Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, is confirmed as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security. Read and watch her goodbyes online.

  • Native San Joaquin County vintner Brad Goehring announces plans to run as a Republican in the 2010 race for the 11th Congressional District

  • Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf declines to run for either the 10th or the 11th congressional districts.

    AND FINALLY: Some Contra Costa employees are grumpy over the six-month-old cost-cutting policy that bans the purchase of food on the county's dime with one big exception — the board of supervisors.

    Employees can either brown-bag it or pool their own money to buy food for a working lunch.

    The county even refused to pay for lunch when it was Sheriff Warren Rupf's turn to host the monthly meeting of the Contra Costa Chiefs Association.

    But supervisors chow down weekly on taxpayers' largesse.

    The county buys lunch for the supervisors, who eat during their noontime closed sessions. They make a valid point that it expedites the meetings for paid staff and the waiting public.

    The menu usually features sandwiches or pasta from one of several downtown Martinez restaurants. The county has spent $6,300 in the past year on the board's food.

    Critics don't dispute the "working lunch" premise but they say that other workers conduct legitimate business during mealtimes, too.

    "It's pretty hypocritical," says one county worker. "It's like they are saying their work is important but ours is not."

    Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond offered to bring his own sandwich.

    "Or we could all chip in $10 a week of our own money for lunches, that's fair," Gioia said.

    "Leading by example is important."

    To that end, Gioia called on elected officials countywide to push away from the public trough.

    And if the sheriff needs a tuna salad recipe, he'll be happy to send one over.

    Reach Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com or www.ibabuzz.com/politics/.