By JOE BIESK
Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Like other technologically savvy young adults her age, 23-year-old Cara Blevins turns to the Internet as a way of keeping up with friends and monitoring current events through Web sites and podcasts.
Her participation on the social networking site Facebook.com even led to her volunteering on a gubernatorial campaign during the primary election this spring. Others use the Net to tout their candidates or find a way of getting involved, Blevins said.
"It's really effective as far as engaging young people," Blevins said of campaigns' use of the Internet.
Fans of the CNN-YouTube presidential debate conducted last month so far have not seen quite the same level of high-tech flare in Kentucky's statewide races. Still, the candidates in Kentucky's Nov. 6 gubernatorial election are turning to cyberspace as a way of luring voters through their own campaign and outside social networking Web sites.
Most candidates have had at least basic campaign Web sites for years.
During this election, Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Steve Beshear also have video clips posted online and profiles on social networking sites.
Campaigns aren't just using the Internet to recruit voters, said Brian Namey, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. It's also a great way for them to enlist an army of volunteers that can go out and help muster added support for their candidate, Namey said.
The trend nationally is for campaigns to tap individuals online and try to convert that into activism, Namey said. When successful, the platform also gives candidates the ability to get an unfiltered message straight to potential voters, Namey said.
And, campaigns that do something particularly innovative might wind up creating more positive headlines for themselves, he said.
"It has engaged many more people in the political process because they're able to interact with the campaigns and begin to become more invested in these races," Namey said. "There's this interactivity component."
Beshear and his running mate, state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard, both have online profiles, spokeswoman Vicki Glass said. The campaign is using its own site and others to try to appeal to college students and young professionals as well, Glass said.
Fletcher campaign spokesman Jason Keller said the governor's campaign offers e-mail alerts, and uses its Web site to accept donations. New technologies, however, haven't replaced traditional television and radio advertising, Keller said.
"It is another avenue to reach more Kentuckians and to communicate your message to a wider audience," Keller said.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican seeking re-election, said his campaign is planning to run out a revamped Web site soon. Grayson also has profiles on Facebook.com and Myspace.com.
Such pages were useful in getting college students to turn up for campaign events held on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, Grayson said.
"We're finding a lot more people online," Grayson said. "That's different from four years ago, when we had the Web page and we had e-mail."
Blevins, a registered Republican, said she volunteered to help state Treasurer Jonathan Miller during his failed primary campaign for the Democratic nomination this past spring. Blevins said campaigns can recruit their grassroots organizations through the Internet.
"If you put it out there that you're interested" in volunteering, she said, "somebody will find you and somebody will contact you. And that's huge."
Nick Ayers, who was Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's campaign manager, said campaigns are tapping many young volunteers via the Internet. Technology alone, however, can't win an election, Ayers said.
"Your technology's only going to be as good as your candidate and your message," Ayers said. "In Kentucky, by having the best technology, that's not going to hand you the victory. It can be a good asset."
Still, few candidates have figured out how to use the Internet effectively, Scott Lasley, a Western Kentucky University political scientist, said. Voters have to seek out a particular Web site to get the information it contains, whereas television commercials go directly to voters.
The Internet is attractive because it is inexpensive, but it doesn't always hit voters most likely to factor into an election, Lasley said.
"Things like YouTube ... I think that they appeal to the younger voters," Lasley said. "And they're the least likely to vote."
But Mario Anderson, a 21-year-old Facebook user from Lexington, said most college students he knows are turning to the Internet for news. Anderson said he attended a rally for Democrat Bruce Lunsford during the fall campaign after learning about it online.
"A lot of politicians, they pretty much learned that the young vote does count," Anderson said. "And they're trying to capture that by getting in touch with young folks through the Internet."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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