With spring elections just over four months away, the Madison mayoral race is beginning to gear up in earnest. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is holding a press conference Thursday, at which he is expected to formally announce his candidacy. High-profile challenger Ray Allen filed on May 4, and has been campaigning ever since.
While only Allen is running ads and actively campaigning right now, both are building their campaign websites. And just as the candidates differ in their views on several important issues, their approaches to designing, maintaining and even hosting their sites vary as well. Allen's list of "priorities" indicates that the state of Madison's economy and the mayor's relationship with the local business community will be some of his campaign's biggest issues. So it's interesting to note that while the Cieslewicz campaign is working with Madison companies to produce his site, Allen has sought the services of companies outside the city.
A note at the bottom of Allen's home page says the site is "created and maintained by Anubavam Technologies." A visit to Anubavam's site reveals it is "one of the fastest growing companies in India, catering to the increasing demand for Software Outsourcing" [emphasis in original]. Formerly based in Chennai (the southern Indian city formerly named Madras) and operating from San Antonio, the company provides online development and implementation services for clients both large and small.
Anubavam partners with e-prosoftgroup, "a comprehensive IT staffing service provider" based in Fitchburg, to help build its clientele in the U.S. Anubavam manager Siva Kumar says he and his associate at e-prosoftgroup "know Allen and wanted to help him."
Allen's site is hosted by The Endurance International Group, a hosting company based in Burlington, Mass.
Allen did not return calls Tuesday afternoon.
Cieslewicz campaign manager Megan McGrorty says all of the design and content management for the Cieslewicz site is conducted via IMS SiteManager. IMS is an online consulting and development company based on the near east side of Madison whose other clients include groups like the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Madison Central Business Improvement District. Cieslewicz's site is hosted by SupraNet, an online services company based on the far west side of Madison.
McGrorty was unwilling to answer other questions about Cieslewicz's online strategy until after his formal declaration of candidacy on Thursday.
Comparing the online campaigns
Aside from the mechanics, both of the sites feature similar domains: rayallenformadison.com and daveformadison.com. Both feature views of the Capitol dome, though Cieslewicz's features the view of the downtown skyline from Lake Monona and Allen's shows just the dome, as seen from Martin Luther King Jr. Bvd. Both feature portraits of the candidates, though Cieslewicz's also includes one of him with his wife. There's also a reproduction of his 2003 campaign button bearing a phonetic spelling of his name.
Cieslewicz's home page also holds the quintessential element of a local campaign website, the list of supporters. The mayor currently boasts more than 600 of them, including current and former office-holders and a variety of community leaders and activists.
The sites share several other basic features. Each starts with a bio of the candidate, although Allen goes into more detail. Each site also allows supporters to make online donations. Both have "newsroom" pages to feature press releases and clippings about the campaigns. While Cieslewicz's is empty at the moment, maybe until Thursday, Allen's shows over a dozen items, mostly from late summer and early autumn.
Both sites have issues pages (here for Allen and here for Cieslewicz) detailing talking points. Allen lists three priorities in his campaign (economic development, public safety, and management of the city), each of which is predictably framed in opposition to the current city leadership. Cieslewicz, meanwhile, lists twelve priorities in his bid to get reelected. All of these positions are also predictably framed in terms of a mayor looking to meet new challenges after his first term.
Neither site lists a campaign treasurer as required by state elections law.
A third candidate?
Just last week, frequent mayoral candidate Dennis de Nure filed a notice with the city, possibly bringing the candidate total up to three. De Nure is the former owner of the now-closed Game Haven on State Street and is currently a t-shirt purveyor and booster of a Feingold presidential candidacy, the veteran of multiple prior campaigns for mayor of Madison. While de Nure announced his filing for candidacy last Tuesday, the city's clerks office says his paperwork is incomplete. de Nure lists two addresses on his registration forms -- one in downtown Madison and another in Platteville -- and must clarify which is his primary address with the city clerk.
As for his online campaign, de Nure publishes 2007 Mayors Race Blog to YOU!!!; this is a regularly updated compendium of his correspondence to city officials, downtown boosters and local media. This blog, running on the widely-used WordPress software, focuses primarily on his vision for Madison's Museum Mile, a concept to create at least six new museums in the downtown of the city. This is currently the extent of de Nure's online campaign apparatus.
Unlike the two high-profile mayoral candidates, though, de Nure is the only one publishing a blog as part of his online camapaing, something that's become standard in most national campaigns, an increasing number of state campaigns, and even in local campaigns here in Madison for the school board and city council. At the very least, it seems that both Cieslewicz and Allen are going play it safe.