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Napa council, mayoral candidates taking their campaigns to the Web

Napa council, mayoral candidates taking their campaigns to the Web

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This is a breakthrough year for electronic campaigning in the city of Napa, with at least four of 12 candidates for mayor and City Council planning to have campaign Web sites.

A prospective voter doesn't have to wait for a flyer or newspaper ad to learn a candidate's personal history, campaign platform and list of endorsements. They can click onto the Web.

Council candidate Mark van Gorder treats visitors to www.votevangorder.com to a history of his volunteer work, a photo of him and his wife Tiffany and their infant daughter, and a sampling of his letters to the editor on public issues. More information is promised.

"It's a great way for people to get information privately," van Gorder said. "Some people don't feel comfortable making a phone call to a candidate."

Council candidate Joe Salerno's site — www.joesalerno.org — lists his bio, a short campaign platform and includes a photo of himself addressing a public meeting.

Nothing takes the place of meeting people in person, Salerno said, but a Web site helps a voter learn more. Even he finds these sites useful. He visits rivals' sites for opposition research, he said.

Mayoral candidate Jill Techel didn't have a Web site in her two successful campaigns for council, but times have changed, she said. Techel will soon debut www.jilltechel.com, where voters will see campaign issues spelled out and will be informed of ways to volunteer and donate, she said.

When voters type "Jill Techel" into an Internet search engine, "they almost expect you to have a Web page," Techel said.

Council candidate Chris Edwards has by far the most comprehensive Web site. Anyone visiting www.edwards4napa.com could easily spend a half hour reading position papers on energy conservation and urban growth and clicking to candidate quotes, a photo gallery and his record of community service.

"We live in the electronic age," said Edwards, who launched his Web site two years ago when he first ran for council, and has updated it often since. "One of my pushes in government is that the city Web site be interactive and provide lots of information. My belief is that my Web site should be something similar."

"I have a very talented Web master who has donated his services," Edwards said. If Edwards had hired the job out, it would have cost $5,000 to $7,000, he said.

Edwards' campaign literature encourages voters to visit his Web site for more information. If he is elected, his site will have a blog component, allowing Napa residents to post messages, he said.

Linda Scott, a consultant working for candidate Mark van Gorder, said Web sites are no longer just for presidential candidates and those running for state office. They have filtered down to city politics.

"In the future I think candidates who have the resources — either volunteer or the ability to fund it — will absolutely have Web sites," Scott said.

"To do a really nice Web site you will need to pay $8,000 to $10,000," Scott said. Fortunately, van Gorder has a supporter who is donating his services. "It's a grassroots Web site," she said.

Councilman Harry Martin, who is running for mayor, uses his newspaper's Web site — www.napasentinel.com — as a personal campaign vehicle. Computer users can click on the Sentinel's Web page to find information about Martin the candidate.

Martin said he hasn't put a lot of energy into developing a Web presence for his candidacy. "A lot of my constituency, the seniors, don't do computers," he said.

Council candidate Jim Krider said he had an e-mail address, but not a Web site. "I guess I'm old school. I'm sure it's helpful to some degree. I'd rather meet people face to face," he said.

"I tell everybody I'm listed in the phone book," Krider said. "Don't be afraid to pick up the phone book and call me."

Council candidate Rachael Frank-Clark said a Web site takes a lot of work and money, so she won't have one. "I'm going door to door. I think the traditional way is best," she said.

Council candidate Dee Cuney is making her fifth bid for council after a string of close losses. She never used a Web site before and she won't this time either. Considering the likely benefit, "it's too much trouble," she said.

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