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Candidates' web sites

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-06-05


In the early stages of the 2000 Presidential Race, Democrat Howard Dean revolutionized the way candidates use the Interest to rally voters, mobilize volunteers and raise cash. Granted, his campaign eventually imploded, but like the early primary states of Iowa and New Hamshire, cyberspace had become a must-visit stop on the campaign trail.

Political Animal decided to check out the websites of four local candidates in what promise to be hotly contested races: Democrat Tina Taviano and Republican Ken Fries in the race for Allen County Sheriff, and Democrat Tom Hayhurst versus Republican incumbent Mark Souder in the race for the Third District U.S. House of Representative seat.

Let’s start with the best of the sites. In the Allen County Sheriff’s race, Taviano and Fries have striking campaign websites while taking very different approaches. Both use color schemes and graphics consistent with their other campaign materials, but the content and presentation couldn’t be more different.

Taviano’s site is by far the most detailed of any local candidate. From her experience and background, to her stance on the issues, to her personal interests (her favorite TV shows are The Apprentice, Cold Case and American Idol), Taviano tells all. The site doesn’t indicate who designed it, but to their credit, www.tavianoforsheriff.com is easy to navigate. Nearly every page uses frames to provide a consistent look and message, including her campaign mission statement and key issues which appear in full view on almost every page you visit.

Just about every campaign site that you visit will have photos of the candidate kissing babies or giving their stump speech, however Taviano goes the extra mile by including video clips from some of her television appearances.

But for all its sophistication, Taviano’s site contains some very low tech typographical glitches. On a page outlining her thoughts on the issue of combining city and county law enforcement services (tavianoforsheriff.com/WhereSheStands.html), Taviano refers to Chief Rusty Yorke. I’m not sure why she’s using the Old English spelling, but Fort Wayne’s Police Chief is Rusty York. She also refers to the much anticipated Police and Fire Safety Academy at SouthTown, when it’s actually Southtown - or Southtown Centre to be exact.

Even so, Taviano’s site is solid. Indiana Pundit (indianapundit.blogspot.com) gave it an “A,” calling it “well organized” and easy to read. We concur.

Ken Fries’ site (kenfriesforsheriff.com) doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles, but it really doesn’t need them. The site is attractive, to the point and easy to navigate. Compared to Taviano’s very detailed site, Fries’ approach is minimalist. You could surf the entire site in a matter of minutes and have a good understanding of Fries’ experience and approach to crime-fighting.

What you won’t find are Fries’ view on consolidation. Combining certain functions of the Fort Wayne and Allen County police agencies – perhaps even sharing headquarters – has been a hot topic for the last few years, but while Fries has commented on the subject in public appearances, he doesn’t touch it online. Political Animal found the absence conspicuous.

Still, Fries delivers a solid website.

In the race for U.S. Congress, Tom Hayhust hopes to unseat a Republican in one of the nation’s most Republican districts. If the race were held in cyberspace, Hayhurst would win in a landslide.

Hayhurst’s site (tomhayhurstforcongress.com) won’t nab any web design awards, but it gives a decent overview of Hayhurst, who currently serves on the Fort Wayne City Council. The site is modestly attractive but not exciting. There is little to nothing on the site about the issues, but it presents Hayhurst as a credible candidate and likable guy. Political Animal, however, would like to see more energy and passion, something Hayhurst delivers in public appearances.

That said, Hayhurst’s site is 100%… no, 1,000% better than Rep. Mark Souder’s. Given a “D” by Indiana Pundit, Souder’s website is unattractive, outdated (it asks for your support on November 2. Election day is November 7 this year) and shallow. Of the four links on the home page, none explore the issues. None examine the Congressman Souder’s background or voting record. Three of the links do ask for donations. Tacky, don’t you think?

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