Social media and the Internet are expected to play an increasing role in this year's election in Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

Photo by John F. Russell

Social media and the Internet are expected to play an increasing role in this year's election in Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

Steamboat School Board, council hopefuls look to Internet to reach voters

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Election 2011

Click here for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Steamboat Springs City Council candidates

District 1

Rich Levy: Facebook

Scott Myller: website (incumbent)

District 2

Bart Kounovsky (at-large incumbent)

District 3

Sonja Macys: Facebook, website

Dave Moloney: Facebook, YouTube

At-large

John Fielding

Kevin Kaminski

Daryl Levin: Facebook

Steamboat Springs School Board candidates

District 2

Wayne Lemley

District 4

Robin Crossan (incumbent)

District 5

Sandra Sharp: Facebook

Rebecca Williams: Facebook

Ballot issues

Referendum 2B, Yes 2 Air: Facebook, website

Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original published version. Steamboat Springs School Board District 5 candidates Rebecca Williams and Sandra Sharp both have Facebook pages specifically for their campaigns.

Some candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council and School Board have turned to social media as a way to reach voters.

It’s not new. What started early in the 2000s on the Internet and evolved into national campaigns through Facebook and other social media sites is catching on in Steamboat.

“It’s almost like you have to do it these days,” said Dave Moloney, who is running against Sonja Macys for the District 3 City Council seat. “It’s expected.”

Seven of eight candidates for the four City Council seats have Facebook pages, including four dedicated to their campaigns. Two of the four School Board candidates also are on Facebook, and both District 5 candidates have pages specifically for their campaigns.

Many of the local medical marijuana dispensaries have information about the ballot measures that ask residents to consider banning the businesses on their websites and Facebook pages.

And organizers of the Yes 2 Air campaign, which is promoting Referendum 2B, the ballot question asking voters to approve a 0.25 percent sales tax to supplement the winter air service program, also have a website and an active Facebook presence.

“To be honest, Facebook works just as well as a marketing tool as a social tool,” said Rich Levy, who is opposing incumbent Scott Myller for the District 1 City Council seat. “You want to reach as many people as possible, not just in your circle, but other people’s circles. That’s the most efficient way of doing that.”

Online evolution

Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster and political consultant, said national Web-based campaigning started in 2000.

It took off with email during the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Ciruli said. He said it continued in 2004 with Howard Dean, who mobilized young volunteers to the Iowa Caucus using the Internet. Barack Obama used the Web and social media to best Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in 2008 and to win the presidency, Ciruli said. And he said Obama’s Web and social media use continues as a communication tool for the president.

Ciruli said according to a study he recently conducted of Adams County voters, 80 percent of them had Internet access.

“You’re no longer missing very many people,” he said. “Everyone is online. And now it’s getting increasingly sophisticated. People are online on their phones, mobile apps. Some small campaigns are staying in the material reality, or older campaigns. But it’s rare to find newer candidates, younger candidates, who aren’t online.”

Ciruli expects online campaigning to entirely replace traditional campaign advertising, including television, newspapers, yard signs and going door to door.

Another tool

The local candidates acknowledged that the Internet and social media were only a part of their campaign efforts.

“It’s just a great way to connect with people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” Macys said. “I’m not using social media as a replacement for advertising per se. I’m using it as a supplement. I think it reaches a different segment of the population, maybe the younger voters.”

Facebook is just a tool for her campaign, which includes a website in addition to traditional print advertising and attending local candidate forums, Macys said. She said the site allows voters to get to know her and her position on certain issues.

Moloney also is working on a website to complement his Facebook page, and he has a YouTube video, as well. Myller has some information about his City Council re-election bid on his website. Daryl Levin, who is opposing John Fielding and Kevin Kaminski for the at-large seat, also has a campaign page on Facebook.

Only at-large City Council member Bart Kounovsky, who is running unopposed for District 2, doesn’t have a personal Facebook page.

District 5 School Board candidates Rebecca Williams and Sandra Sharp have specific Facebook campaign pages. Wayne Lemley, who is running unopposed for the District 2 School Board seat, and School Board President Robin Crossan, who is running unopposed to retain her District 4 seat, aren’t on the social-networking site.

Bill Stewart, who is in charge of the marketing efforts for Yes 2 Air, said the group is trying to reach the segment of the community that is younger than 40: working people and young families. He said it’s one of Steamboat’s largest groups and one that would be impacted the most by fewer guaranteed airline seats coming into Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

“We are kind of a retail- and service-based economy,” he said. “These young people are right in the front of it, and it affects them the most. They’re the ones whose hours are cut back and whose businesses are affected the most ... Those are the people who use social media.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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