David Yassky took a break from ‘Facebook-ing’ one recent Monday to enjoy a cocktail party – another important element of his campaign for comptroller.
As caterers served platters of hors d’oeurves and bellinis at a fundraiser event in Brooklyn Heights on Monday evening, City Councilman Yassky talked to his supporters. Through the glass doors the Statue of Liberty was visible behind him.
Yassky, a Brooklynite, is running for New York City comptroller against John Liu, Melinda Katz, and David Weprin, all are from Queens. They are also his Democratic colleagues in the council. This political battle is being increasingly fought with new weaponry.
All of the candidates, except for Katz, have websites linked to social networking platforms including Facebook and YouTube. Yassky’s site includes his blog. Weprin’s site has a Twitter feed and links to a dozen sites from MySpace to Picassa.
Yassky’s campaign manager Cathy Toren, 48, said “developing networks in general in a campaign is usually important, for not only his fundraising base but his volunteer base and ultimately his voter base. It’s a great way to reach out to people, that he may or may not be able to reach out to ordinarily, in a cost effective and creative way.”
She said that Yassky personally posts on his Facebook page, and updates his blog.
Perhaps the most important technology used is the red “Contribute” button on Yassky’s site. (All of the candidate’s sites have a variation of the same button).
Harriet Yassky, 67, Yassky’s mother and campaign treasurer said she has been involved with ‘David’s campaigns from the beginning, the first one that he did.’
Since then, she said, there has been a definite increase in online donations. “I think people are very much more comfortable now with making contributions over the web.”
As of March 16th, Yassky’s campaign had raised about $1.5 million. Liu raised $3.1 million, Katz raised $2.2 million, and Weprin raised $2 million.
Yassky isn’t spending fast, so far just over $300,000. Weprin has spent over $500,000, Liu has spent over $900,000, and Katz has spent over $1 million.
“We do get a lot of online contributions, but they tend to be a lot smaller,” said Kate Weed, 23, who works on finance in Yassky’s campaign.
Weed stressed the continued importance of fundraising events in bringing in large donations. “We actually get a lot of checks still. I’d say it’s about 50 – 50.” Weed said the campaign has about eight more fundraising events planned over the next month.
“Our fundraising effort is absolutely designed to work together with traditional fundraising methods and new fundraising methods. So we’re not discarding the old, we’re adding the new,” said Toren.
Susan Restler, 58, a supporter of Yassky, said, a ‘problem for a campaign like David Yassky’s is that it’s hard to find and pay talent to support you in terms of web communication.” Restler said she has been donating mostly online since Barack Obama’s campaign, which she views as having “raised a bar.”
Of campaigning using online technologies and social networking, Restler said, “I think once you’ve seen it done effectively then everything else is disappointing.”