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Cyber Campaigns

[whitespace] cartoon

Political candidates now tout themselves on their own websites

Edited by Greg Cahill

POLITICAL brochures and billboards are all well and good, but as more registered voters are beginning to migrate online, local election hopefuls are experimenting with a new campaign tool. The latest premise is: If you wanna get ahead in the polls, you better get a website, and fast.

But hold on! A list of dry declarations on the key issues and a formulaic biography won't quite cut it. Candidates are finding they need something jazzier with full-scale color photos scanned to perfection-- the bigger the better. (Don't forget some shots of family members and pets.) Oh, and throw in some animated graphics and a virtual collection box for campaign contributions. Now we're talking.

A quick perusal of Petalumanet's Web guide to the upcoming elections reveals some interesting, and a couple of fairly wacky, Web pages.

Several candidates in the packed race for 2nd District supervisor have jostled their way online with a vengeance. In an electronic attempt to attract voters, Petaluma Councilwomen Jane Hamilton and Nancy Read; Petaluma Police Sgt. Mike Kerns; and Petaluma Attorney Dave King have all installed their own election sites.

Hamilton's page is actually a virtual version of her printed brochure, including background information on the councilwoman and a list of her endorsers. There's a cute black-and-white photo of a smiling Hamilton gazing skywards (a bit like Mary Tyler Moore but without the airborne hat) and plenty of other photos, too. The website is organized, informative, and easy to navigate with plenty of links.

Nancy Read's website is a one-page affair with no links except e-mail. It features one black-and-white head shot, Read's résumé, and a list of her priority issues. "We need her diverse experience on the Board of Supervisors," notes a quote in boldface--but the statement is not attributed to anyone. Technologically, this is not a very exciting site.

Dave King's page is a well-organized package. His site has areas where you can "find out more about Dave and his family," read his speeches and press releases, and check up on where he's going to be speaking. The site also boasts good icons, photos, and useful links to the Petaluma Electronic Network and Project Vote Smart.

It is Mike Kerns, though, who has gone all-out with his Web page. (Extra kudos for the animated flag, sergeant.) In addition to all the regular voter information, Kerns has included several special sections. Click onto "Kids for Kerns" and you'll find a club for young Kerns fans, plus messages from Kerns' children urging voters to pick papa. "I really want my dad to win this election," writes his high school freshman daughter. "My dad cares about people, especially kids. I hope you'll tell your parents to vote for him," loyally adds his 9-year-old son.

Click on a section called "Kwik Kerns," and under "Interests and Activities" you'll learn that Kerns sings with the Pigtones--a police department singing group--and that in 1967 he was the "Golden Cloves" boxing champion--which makes this the spiciest site by far. Under the section called "Mike's Favorite Links," you'll find links to several other websites, including Drug Abuse Resistance Education and the Elks Lodge.

One address--http://petalumanet.com/links/--gains access to all these websites.

At press time, there was not a cyber peep from remaining 2nd District candidates Rohnert Park Mayor Linda Spiro, certified public accountant Kathleen Doyle, and state investigator Gary Johnson. Over in the 4th District, incumbent Paul Kelley and challengers community activist Bill Patterson and attorney Bill Smith also appear to be out of the Internet loop.

Only candidate Gregory Wonderwheel, a deputy public conservator, has his own web page. This comprehensive site, which he calls "Campaign Central on the Web," includes Wonderwheel's statements and policies, information on the candidates' debates, and lots of curious links (from the Sierra Club and the Sonoma County ACLU to the Ally McBeal Archives and The X-Files). Our favorite Wonderwheel Web quote: "I'm not just running against Paul Kelley, I stand for something."

Now, if we all log on and get campaign surfin', can all you candidates just promise us we won't end up being spammed with political junk mail?

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From the May 21-27, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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