So, we're getting on down to the wire. This is going to be a unique election in Manassas: really the first November election that is highly contested with complete slates on both sides. It's such a big deal because five (?) times more people in Manassas vote in November than ever did in a May election….so the methods employed have to be a lot different than when I ran.
See, when I ran – just short of ten years ago now – you had to reach about 3,500 voters – tops. Door knocking was the primary way to reach out to those voters and individual candidates did pretty much all of their own door knocking – I wore out at least two pairs of shoes. Sarah and Erin helped out some and that's about it. We had door hangers that we made by hand. Every one of those things was printed on our own laser printer – 2 to a sheet, cut in half and then had a hole punched in it. We wrote all of our own content. There wasn't a Facebook but there was, perhaps more importantly, a news paper. Candidates didn't advertise much but I remember Mayor Waldron having a billboard at one point. The candidates did have differing views of what the world needed to look like but I do not recall it ever being ugly.
Fast forward and we have had one November election for Council but only four people ran – everyone was still figuring it all out. This year, however, is a whole different ball of wax. There is a presidential election this year and the Council guys are all running at the same time. I see both parties rounding up a couple dozen folks to door knock and lit drop. I certainly never had to do that.
In addition, the vagaries of the presidential contest are suddenly very important to down ballot (council) races because people do not "split their tickets" (vote for one party for president and different parties for other offices) much anymore. In the last election about 90% of voters selected the same party to receive all their votes – if you voted for a republican for governor, you voted republican down the whole ticket……so, suddenly, if the race for President runs off the rails it matters to someone running for City Council !!! If Hillary is going to get killed in your district and you're a democrat then your hill just got a lot taller to climb. This very thing could become very important even here in Manassas.
Social media is the other variable. There are actually a couple of different facets around this item. The first is this: is activity on social media a useful surrogate for polling? In other words, if you received a bunch of new "likes" or a broader audience reach on a Facebook page / picture / post will that mean anything in terms of votes?
The second aspect of social media is this: It is insanely effective at spreading information and awareness. You can't argue that. However, very little of what I see on there as "news" or "facts" has little to do with reality. I'd say this: social media is excellent at spreading information and opinion however the source material for a lot of that information is rarely anything that looks much like journalism (Witness the nauseating rise of click-bait). It remains to be seen how relevant social media can be in a local election. Can it be a replacement for our dearly departed newspaper? I think not but time will tell.