FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 8, 1996
CONTACT: Kim Alexander or Andrea Cook
CONTESTED CALIFORNIA HOUSE SEAT MAY BE DECIDED IN CYBERSPACE
When the final votes are counted in California's 42nd congressional district, the outcome may be determined by which candidate took their campaign into cyberspace this year. As of 10 a.m. today, less than 1200 votes separated the two candidates, with incumbent Democrat George Brown slightly leading his opponent, Republican challenger Linda Wilde. (The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters is still counting absentee ballots, and the final results may not be known until next week.)
Challenger Wilde may have benefited from the Web site her campaign established on the Internet more than a year ago, which has been visited more than 13,000 times, according to the site counter - far more visits than the mere 1200 votes that currently separate the two candidates. The Brown campaign, on the other hand, chose not to establish a presence on the Web.
The 42nd Congressional District is one of three hotly-contested California congressional races that may have been impacted by the Internet, according to the California Voter Foundation, a non-profit organization that develops non-partisan online voter education resources. In Santa Barbara's 22nd congressional district, Democratic challenger Walter Capps unseated incumbent Republican Andrea Seastrand. In Contra Costa's 10th congressional district, Democratic challenger Ellen Tauscher unseated incumbent Republican Bill Baker. In both races, the challengers established Web sites while the defeated incumbents did not.
"Not every voter is logging onto the Internet, but in tight races such as California's 10th, 22nd and 42nd congressional districts, a Web presence may have given the winning candidate the edge they needed," said Kim Alexander, the Foundation's executive director. "It is impossible to know whether these challengers' web sites are responsible for their victory, but the lesson is clear: in the next election, candidates who find themselves in tight races cannot afford to overlook the Web as a component of their campaign strategy."
Evidence of the Internet's impact on politics continues to mount as the results of exit polls are announced. For example, a survey conducted by the Voter News Service for several television networks found that 26 percent of those who voted in Tuesday's Presidential election are regular Internet users.
Ellen Tauscher won the 10th congressional district by less than 6,000 votes. The margin in Santa Barbara's congressional race was wider, with Walter Capps beating Andrea Seastrand by more than 12,000 votes.
Ken Owen, the webmaster of the Capps site, said the Web site was visited about 20,000 times over the course of the election, and believes the site played an important role in Capps' victory. "The Web site greatly raised our campaign's visibility," Owen said, noting the site also produced a few hundred volunteers and contributors. According to Owen, when Capps previously challenged Seastrand in 1994, he lost by less than 1600 votes. "If the Capps campaign had a Web site in 1994, Walter might have been running as an incumbent this year rather than as a challenger," he said.
Carl Cockrell, the webmaster of Linda Wilde's Web site, also believed that the campaign's presence on the Web has made a big difference. "The significance of our Web site can be measured not only by the number of visitors we had, but also by the kinds of people who logged into our site," Cockrell said, noting that many individuals from news organizations, political action committees, and influential groups that endorse candidates made initial contact with the Wilde campaign through the Web site. "Our Web site helped the campaign build momentum and also brought out a large number of volunteers for the campaign," Cockrell said.
"1996 will be remembered as the election year when the Internet moved from novelty to necessity in political campaigns," said Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, noting that her organization's California Online Voter Guide featured links to more than 130 California campaign Web sites and also experienced enormous usage rates. CVF will be releasing a comprehensive analysis in the coming weeks.
For more information, contact:
Carl Cockrell, webmaster for Linda Wilde campaign - 800-607-1315 Wilde campaign Web site: http://www.primenet.com/~wilde/
Ken Owen, webmaster for the Walter Capps campaign - 805-568-6629 Capps campaign Web site: http://www.rain.org/~capps/
Tauscher campaign headquarters: (510) 945-8515 Tauscher campaign Web site: http://www.tauscher.com
California Voter Foundation's California Online Voter Guide: http://www.calvoter.org/cvf/96gen
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