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national candidates as it does for aspiring city councilors.

Online fundraising itself has become a 2.0 application. ActBlue, for instance, is like MySpace for Democratic fundraising. Democratic candidates can add the ActBlue widget to their Web sites, and users can donate to campaigns with a few simple clicks. The ActBlue site keeps a tally of funds raised and is a hub for anyone seeking information about Democratic candidates. Since launching in 2004, ActBlue has brought more than $45 million to various Democratic campaigns nationwide.

The Republicans' answer to ActBlue is a similar application called Slatecard, where Republican candidates also can add an online donation widget to their campaign site. Like ActBlue, Slatecard acts as a meeting place for anyone seeking data on Republican candidates. Slatecard "social networkizes" online donations by tagging each participating candidate with several "issue badges" that tab issue positions. For example, the Slatecard page for Candidate X might include badges for Faith and Values, Defeat Radical Islam, Conservation of Resources and Support Our Veterans. In addition, a candidate's Slatecard page features links, if they exist, to the candidate's pages on social networking and video sites.

Open Facebook

If the advantage of Web 2.0-enabled campaigns is enhancing a candidate's ability to reach voters, then shouldn't every candidate do it, regardless of the position he or she is running for? Surprisingly many candidates - especially candidates for local office - still treat the Web as an afterthought, or worse, they don't think of it at all.

On the flip side, there are candidates of all ages from all walks of life running for office who use Web 2.0 as a tool to connect with voters and win. From city council races in Roanoke, Va., and Fresno, Calif., to campaigns for the Idaho Senate and the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota, Web 2.0 is changing the local election process from top to bottom.


Fresno City Council

Michael Karbassi is making headlines in the local paper. The attention he's received doesn't only stem from the fact he's running for a city council seat; what interests people is that he's 24 years old. With a population of nearly 500,000, Fresno is the sixth-largest city in California, meaning a win for Karbassi would be an impressive achievement for the precocious, first-time politician.

Part of Karbassi's campaign strategy is to lean on his appeal to voters both young and old. Part of doing that is taking advantage of what the Web has to offer, Karbassi said.

"They say younger people, like myself, use Facebook and MySpace. That's all well and good, but a lot of people, even the older generation, know how to use the Internet a lot more. Young professionals are a big voting bloc as well," Karbassi said. "You can only knock on so many doors. The Web offers you a semi-personal way to communicate with a candidate and ask questions, and there are some important questions out there."

Karbassi's competitor, 34-year-old Andreas Borgeas, is also young by political standards. Neither candidate's site is as refined as a national candidate's, but both use video where and when they can.

Besides clips from the local news, Karbassi's site is home to his personal blog. While blogs certainly aren't new, his opponent doesn't have one, which could give Karbassi an upper hand in reaching voters.

"I think the ultimate question is: What differentiates the two candidates?" Karbassi said. "It's about issues and who the people are. The Web offers that opportunity because it gets the bio out and we get our issues out

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.