If a campaign is like a job interview, then in modern politics an internet presence might well be the equivalent of a cover letter. Some candidates make the cut to the interview stage based on how well they express themselves, but for some a badly-written letter or the apparent inability of a candidate to supply one pretty much knocks them out of the competition. The candidates running for the Republican nomination for Gainesville Supervisor cover the whole gamut from nonexistent, to ridiculous, to probably incompetent, and all the way to highly qualified and it takes very little time to sort out who is who. In a five candidate field, this makes it very easy to sort out who deserves consideration.
Let’s start with those who are doing the best job at demonstrating that they’re serious, qualified and arguably competent.
Hitting the Mark: Martha Hendley and Pete Candland.
Both of these candidates have a professional website and are engaging like serious candidates in social media sites.
Candland’s website is professional and polished, offering the usual mix of content and brevity which is a little short on details but entirely consistent with modern campaigns. He’s got 106 “likes” on his facebook campaign page and no twitter account. Not a perfect display, but pretty close to it especially given this is a supervisor’s race. Candland gets top honors for presenting himself as a serious contender and having the most professional looking campaign. He gets an interview.
Martha Hendley’s website is also professional and polished, populated with the same conservatively written information on issues and experience, again entirely consistent with what competent campaigns do. She has a new campaign facebook page with only one “like”, but having something that hasn’t officially launched is better than having nothing. I’m sure she’ll have a good following in short order. Again, there’s no twitter account. Hendley ranks just a small notch below, but still solidly qualifies for an interview.
Candidates that make you go huh?: Steve Botello and Michael High
Sometimes the wrong internet presence does more harm than good. These two are case studies.
While visually Botello’s website is good, the content makes you scratch your head. The banner “tagline” is “General Prince William Republican Party Political.” I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, and I doubt anyone else does either. The front page is littered with grammatical errors suggesting no one ever bothered to proofread the website. Photos on the site cut off his head, the verbiage is rather strange, and the site overall does more harm than good for his campaign as it makes him appear educationally unqualified for the office. Botello has eleven followers on his campaign facebook page which he updates very regularly. No twitter account (correction: Steve tells me he’s using @SBotelloGS and there are 86 followers — not bad). Botello is not going to get called for an interview, but will get a polite note about keeping his resume on file.
Michael High is another candidate with an awfully strange campaign website. It features one of those easily recognized default “Website Tonight” do-it-yourself website themes, but since he urges supporters not to donate money to his campaign it’s seems someone obvious that he’s not donating to his campaign either and can’t afford to actually present himself professionally. Back in the day these were the folks who sent photocopied resumes to employers rather than bothering to have them professionally printed because they didn’t care all that much about how they presented themselves. The content isn’t awful, but it’s pointless and irrelevant, demonstrating no competency with the position he is seeking. There’s no facebook or twitter presence as far as I could tell. Not only is High not getting an interview, I doubt he’s even getting a polite letter.
The no-show: Suzanne Miller
Despite promising us she’d have a website up well over a week ago, she doesn’t. I’m not that surprised, actually. If you don’t bother to apply for the job, you’re probably not going to get an interview, and when people google her name they’re not going to find a whole lot of positive things about her on the internet. She has a personal facebook page but no campaign facebook page. As far as campaigns go, this one remains the poster child for ineffectiveness and incompetence, even though this is the campaign that’s claiming the highest levels of educational accomplishment among all the candidates.
So why does this all matter? Think of the electorate in Gainesville. About two-thirds of job-holders in this district commute out of the county to professional jobs closer in to Washington, many of which involve to some degree information technology, management and marketing. To make these voters think they’re qualified to be in public office, candidates need to make themselves look at least as competent as the electorate. If you ask someone with twenty year’s experience in information technology to vote for you and your website doesn’t exist or is utterly sophomoric, you cannot earn their vote. Period. It’s unrealistic to think you can ask someone to vote for you when they think they’re a lot more competent and professional than you are.
Some candidates seem to understand the electorate and are putting their best foot forward. Some increasingly demonstrate they have no business being in politics as they either can’t execute a campaign or seem to find someone who can do that on their behalf. Either of those are thorough disqualifications which will, or at least should, bar them from public office and I fully expect to see that play out in this race.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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