Candidates are just a click away

Every other year or so, candidates for public office blitz the airwaves and U.S. Postal Service with advertisements seeking votes.

But the year 2000 brings a difference to campaigning not seen in previous presidential election years: ubiquitous campaign Web sites.

Mike Slanker, campaign manager for U.S. Senate hopeful John Ensign, has managed political campaigns for 10 years. Before 1998, building a Web site for a candidate wasn't a consideration.

"I can tell you the very discussion came up in 1996 and we opted not to start a Web site. It was a great political argument whether it was worthwhile, and at that point it wasn't worth the time," Slanker said. "Now, it's a must."

Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said 1998 was the first time candidates used Web sites extensively. Two years later, Web sites are becoming a serious election tool .

"It allows individuals to access information any time of the day," Herzik said. "It's a commercial that runs 24 hours a day. Candidates say it's a way to get out more detailed information about their positions, a way to attract volunteers and a point of entry for people who want to help. And it's advertising.

"It's a tool, but it can't replace - at least not yet - the traditional media advertising and certainly not the traditional meet-and-greet campaigning. Ask any campaign consultant if they'd rather have the money to buy traditional television air time or a Web site. The day of the virtual candidate is still pretty far off."

Herzik pointed out that while candidates' personal Web sites are likely to be legitimate, there will be plenty of negative Web sites out there as well.

"Web sites can serve a need, but they're unfiltered," he said. "The farther away you get from an official source, buyer beware on the information."

Political Web sites run from the slick, professional pages of presidential contenders Al Gore and George W. Bush to the more homespun Web sites of Carson City mayoral candidates Tom Tatro and Tom Keeton.

"(The Internet) is where I go to get information, and a lot of people are heading there," Tatro said. "If you want to find something out, you can do it on your own time. It's part of what I do every day.

"I want (voters) to make a decision in my favor, so I want them to have as much information as possible."

At, Tatro has information on himself and his family on constant display. He said he's had about 1,100 hits on the site, and most of the responses via e-mail have been from people wanting to volunteer to help with the campaign.

"It's just one more way to communicate," Tatro said. "This is probably the last election you'll see where people don't have Web sites. You just click your mouse and see what any candidate has to offer. People will demand that kind of access to information."

Neither of Carson City's state assembly candidates has jumped on the Internet bandwagon, saying they prefer the grassroots sort of campaigning.

"I guess I'm just a traditionalist. I really prefer direct communication over the phone," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City.

Frank Sharp, candidate for Carson City ward 4 supervisor, has a survey on his Web site that he uses to gauge people's opinions.

"It's another way to allow the constituents to reach me 24 hours a day," he said. "At least people are looking at it. When they're reading it, they get to make up their own mind what the message is."

Neither of his opponents, Richard Staub and Verne Horton, have a Web site, although Staub said he was considering putting one up. Horton said he, too, prefers the grassroots campaign and a Web site hasn't been a high priority.

In 1996, Carson City Mayor Ray Masayko said it never occurred to him to put himself out on the World Wide Web. Now, he can be found on your home computer at The name isn't as intuitive as some of his challengers' domain names, but he "wanted to be different. I'm the only one who can be Mayor Ray.

"In the last three and a half years the bookmarks on my computer have grown to 30," he said. "This is just another way to reach the voters and to deliver information. It supplements campaigning to a certain extent. But a lot of people still aren't using the Web."

Slanker said Ensign's Web site,, has about 2,500 hits a month. Ensign had a site during his 1998 Senate campaign, but Slanker said it had only a few hundred hits a month. Slanker said Ensign staffers send e-mail weekly to a list of 2,000 people and the list grows daily.

"People are online," he said. "People are logging on and asking questions creating a wonderful dialog. We get great feedback. To run an effective campaign, you have to take advantage of every available media because you need to get the message out. To ignore an exploding medium like the Internet is stupid."

However, Slanker says at the end of the day, nothing can replace campaigning the old-fashioned way.

"People still want to meet the candidate," he said. "Nevada is still a state where that matters."

Some candidate Web sites:


Tom Tatro

Ray Masayko

Tom Keeton

Neil Weaver not available


Frank Sharp

Richard Staub not available

Vern Horton not available

State assembly candidates

Bonnie Parnell not available

Jeanne Simons not available

U.S. Senate

Edward M. Bernstein

John Ensign


Al Gore

George W. Bush


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