Reach Out and Lobby Someone

Tracking politics as it's practiced on the Web.
May 23 2000 3:00 AM

Reach Out and Lobby Someone

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Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000.  

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In the year's most-watched Senate race in New York, la primera dama Hillary Rodham Clinton has Spanish pages on her campaign Web site. But for most candidates in this year's hot races for House, Senate, and governor, including former Clinton foe  Rudolph W. Giuliani and new GOP candidate  Rick Lazio, the official online language of Campaign 2000 is English. New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate Jon Corzine  and Florida independent Senate candidate Willie Logan are possibly the only two candidates running in Congressional Quarterly's 32 other most-competitive races that have Spanish on their sites. Corzine also offers a version of his site in Portugese, while Logan has a Creole page.

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The Web may not be the best way to reach Latino voters. According to a study done this year by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, which has been tracking the presidential candidates' online outreach to the Latino community, three-fifths of Hispanic Web users would rather read English online.

Many Latinos also vote in precincts that are on the other side of the digital divide. While Latinos make up more than 11 percent of the U.S. population, they account for only 4 percent of U.S. Web users.

May 23 Primary Preview

In a number of races on the May 23 primary ballots in Arkansas, Idaho, and Kentucky, congressional candidates still aren't talking online in any language.

None of the incumbents running in Arkansas faces a serious challenge this week or this fall, and none of them has a campaign Web site either. In Idaho, where GOP primary voters will select the likely successor to retiring Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, only half of the eight Republican candidates have Web sites.

In Kentucky, one of the most interesting races of the year has produced two of the campaign's duller Web sites. Sixth District Democrat Scotty Baesler is seeking to take back his former seat in Congress from GOP freshman Ernie Fletcher. Neither candidate faces serious primary challenges this week, which means both have time to develop something to say to voters online.

The incumbent in Kentucky's Third District, by contrast, is using the Web not just to get her message out, unfiltered by the press, but to "correct the half-truths, distortions, and misinformation" in the local media. Republican Rep. Anne Northrup has dedicated a page of her site to telling the "other side of the story" to readers of the Louisville Courier-Journal. The second-term congresswoman appears to have her back up over editorials that she says misstate her positions on federal ergonomics rules and gun control. Northrup faces no Republican challenger, but three Democrats are vying in the primary. 

Ryan Thornburg is a senior producer for washingtonpost.com's "OnPolitics." He can be reached by e-mail at ryan.thornburg@washingtonpost.com. This article is reprinted from the washingtonpost.com's "OnPolitics."

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