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Election activity on Web





By MARY CAREY, Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 23, 2002 -- AMHERST - Strong Web sites and savvy use of e-mail could be influential in the 2000 governor's race, as Robert Reich's surprising showing in the February Democratic caucuses already has demonstrated.

Observers universally doubted that the former U.S. secretary of labor, who entered the race just weeks before the caucuses, would get anywhere near the 15 percent of delegate votes needed to proceed to the September primary. But through short radio advertisements directing listeners to Reich's Web site, organizers mobilized thousands of people who had never before been to a caucus. They showed up and overwhelmed the party activists who usually dominate caucuses.

Campaign staffs are similarly using the Web sites as creatively as possible to advance the candidates' prospects in the coming months before the primaries. Just as Reich's Web site, http://www.robertreich.org/, continues to reflect the energetic nature of his campaign, other candidates' sites also are a window on their personalities and campaigns.

In keeping with the populist tone that has worked well for the Reich campaign, his site opens with the pitches, "We need interns!" and "Help out at headquarters!" Upcoming campaign events touted on the site include a May 7 benefit concert in Northampton featuring Loudon Wainwright III and the Nields, and a swing dance party on May 12. And the Reich campaign also conducts real-time conversations with the candidate on his Web site.

Underdog Warren Tolman has had to run a lean and mean campaign, as he waited to see if he would get the public campaign funds he alone among the gubernatorial candidates has qualified for through the embattled Clean Elections law. The first thing seen by a visitor to http://www.tolman2002.com/ is the headline, "A Clean Elections Candidate."

Candidates need to gather 10,000 signatures in the next few weeks to proceed, and volunteer collectors are actively being sought at the sites for both Tolman and Shannon O'Brien. "Help Warren collect 10,000 signatures to qualify for the primary ballot and win a prize," Tolman's site beckons. First prize is "lunch with Warren."

Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins makes an appearance on http://www.shannonobrien.com/ as one of 18 people from all walks of life to testify about O'Brien's effectiveness. Visitors only need to click on the audio button to hear Higgins discussing "Shannon's commitment to protecting women's rights." O'Brien's site also features an audio segment in which O'Brien speaks in Spanish to supporters at a recent campaign event and synopses of all of the addresses O'Brien gives on the campaign trail.

Like all of the sites, O'Brien's offers an opportunity for visitors to sign up for her e-mail list.

"We have a huge e-mail list," said her campaign manager, Dwight Robson. "Come September, at a moment's notice, say there is a bad story, you can send out a message to 10,000 people saying, 'Here is why it's unfair.' "

In keeping with his former job as chairman and chief fund-raiser for the Democratic National Party, Steve Grossman's site, grossman2002.com, immediately suggests to visitors that they "Make a secure online contribution today," as well as "View Steve's new ad and read his budget plan."

Birmingham wastes no time going after the Republican nominee Mitt Romney at http://www.tombirmingham.org/. Underneath a photo of the state Senate president is the headline, "Tom takes to the airwaves to challenge Mitt Romney." Click on audio and visitors can hear Birmingham.

Although Romney, the latest entry into the gubernatorial race, has a lot of catching up to do at his skeletal site, in one respect, he's got the jump on the others. Visitors to http://www.romney2002.com/ can order merchandise with a couple of easy clicks. However, free bumper stickers and lawn signs are the only things available so far.

Mary Carey reports on politics and government and can be reached at mary.carey@att.net.

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2002 Daily Hampshire Gazette