Social media helps Victoria mayor get elected; ousted mayor used traditional advertising

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

July 17, 2013 at 2:17 a.m.
Updated July 18, 2013 at 2:18 a.m.

Social media and online marketing could be the new way of campaigning in Victoria.

According to information revealed in the final campaign finance reports, newly elected Mayor Paul Polasek spent six times less than his opponent, incumbent Will Armstrong, showing that new-style campaigning may be more effective than the traditional strategy.

Social media is becoming a feature of political and civic engagement for many Americans, according to a 2012 study by Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Pew Research estimated that 60 percent of adults use some form of social media, including Facebook and Twitter. When it comes to the voting process - picking a candidate and encouraging friends to vote - these online platforms are playing larger roles than ever before.

In the weeks leading up to the May 11 election, Polasek became active on Facebook and several area blogs, taking advantage of free marketing tools.

Armstrong, who spent nearly $34,000 on his campaign for a fourth term, had a website but did not use social media in his bid for re-election. Polasek spent about $5,300.

"My strategy was to save my money for a runoff, so I didn't really do any mail-outs," Polasek said. "The rest was social media and the website."

His website was funded through an in-kind donation.

In all, the 13 candidates seeking office raised $127,658 and spent $104,110. The five-person mayoral race brought in the most money.

Polasek came out on top in the May 11 election with 1,951 votes to Armstrong's 1,617. Armstrong dropped out of the runoff May 13.

"I see oncoming value in social media," Armstrong said. "I have a Facebook account, but I'm a low-tech guy, and it shows."

He used mail-outs, billboards and advertising in print, radio and television. He said he does not know whether social media or online components would have enhanced his campaign.

"I was a three-term incumbent, and I felt like I had lots of name identification," he said. "I think people were ready for a change."

Polasek said he was prepared to spend between $10,000 and $15,000 on the runoff.

"I want people to vote for me for my record, not how much I spend," Polasek said. "I'd rather be supported for my record and decision making. I'm not trying to slam any of the other opponents."

He said he doesn't want the elections to be popularity contests.

"I don't want it to be about my campaigning ability, but my ability to lead," he said.

As for unspent contributions, Polasek said he may save them for re-election, but it's too far down the road to tell.

Before closing his account, Armstrong paid himself back a $5,000 loan and contributed $500 to Councilman Andrew Young's runoff election against former councilman Joe Truman.

"I would like to thank the people who helped me with my campaign, and I plan to stay active in the community," Armstrong said.



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