Web site brings candidates, voters together

August 25, 1998

Randy Oldham and his web siteBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer [enlarge]

Washington County Commissioners candidates have a new way to reach voters this year - the Internet.

Halfway resident Randy Oldham last week launched a World Wide Web site devoted to the County Commissioners race. He said he will accept questions from residents about the issues and collect answers from the candidates.

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The answers will be posted on the site, which is at

Oldham, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 1994 and 1996, said he was frustrated by candidate forums, which are often overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of candidates.

"You're limited to questions put before you. And you're limited by time," he said. "There was no way to get my view through."


With 29 candidates vying for five commissioner seats, voters have little opportunity to examine them in depth, Oldham said.

"If you're lucky, you'll hear six minutes from each candidate," he said.

In cyberspace, though, time and space are meaningless concepts. Candidates can go into depth that would be impossible at a forum or in the newspaper, Oldham said.

His Internet forum is free, giving candidates a chance to deliver information that could cost thousands of dollars to get to voters otherwise, he said.

Another advantage is speed, Oldham said.

"If there's an issue that comes up that needs to be addressed that day, you can do it," he said.

Reaction from candidates to the high-tech campaigning has been mixed. Only a handful of candidates responded to the first question, but those who did said they think cyber-campaigning is the wave of the future.

"I think it will become increasingly important over the next few years," said Clinton Wiley, a Republican candidate who runs an Internet services company. "It's a great tool for accessing any kind of information I'm certainly going to respond to the questions that are posed there."

Sue Tuckwell, a Democrat, said the Web site gives candidates another way to reach people.

"I think it's just another tool. There's nothing that can replace personal contact," she said.

In its first week, the site recorded more than 90 "hits."

Democrat Linda Irvin-Craig said she does not know how important the site will prove to be.

"We'll just have to wait and see. It's interesting to be working in that kind of technology," she said.

Democrat Ronald L. Bowers said he did not answer the first question because he does not own a computer. But he said he is eager to work out a way to respond.

"I thought it was a wonderful idea," said Bowers, who said he hopes the party central committees will explore the possibility of maintaining an Internet site for its candidates.

For a $90 fee, Oldham will design a home page for candidates. Five candidates have elected to have this done. The pages read like campaign signs or mailers.

"Ninety dollars is probably pretty well spent in the technological age," Democrat Paul Swartz said.

Oldham said he would like to maintain the site after the election and give the commissioners a chance to interact with constituents as issues come up. But even he would not predict how significant it will be.

"What do you compare it to? There's been nothing like it before," he said.

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