Dueling websites attack Virginia gubernatorial candidates

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Dueling websites dedicated to bashing both of Virginia's gubernatorial candidates popped up Tuesday as Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe and their allies take their heated campaign to the World Wide Web.

Cuccinelli, the state's attorney general, unveiled TruthAboutTerry.com that will continue Cuccinelli's attacks on two of McAuliffe's business ventures, GreenTech Automotive and Franklin Pellets, that failed to produce the jobs and products McAuliffe promised. The site also includes a cartoon drawing of McAuliffe with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and President Obama against the backdrop of the Capitol, insinuating McAuliffe is a D.C. insider.

"Whether it's his refusal to take his own advice and release his tax returns, his remarkable leadership failures at GreenTech and Franklin Pellets or his willingness to reverse course on core policy positions, this site offers a detailed look at McAuliffe's ongoing battle with cold hard facts," said Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix.

American Bridge, a liberal political action committee, also announced a website Tuesday that compares Cuccinelli to Chesapeake pastor E.W. Jackson, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor whose past statements against homosexuality and abortion have recently drawn fire. The site, CuccinelliorJackson.com, asks Virginians to guess which one of the candidates made various controversial statements.

Previously, Planned Parenthood, a McAuliffe ally, launched KeepKenOut.org to help McAuliffe paint Cuccinelli as an ideological extremist.

McAuliffe's campaign brushed off Cuccinelli's new site and instead highlighted news that McAuliffe won the endorsement of two more Republicans -- Jan Schar, former president of the Virginia Federation of Republican Women, and Milt Peterson, a Virginia businessman who has contributed mainly to Republicans over the years. On Monday, McAuliffe, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, won endorsements from Dwight Schar, the former Republican National Committee finance chairman, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Earle Williams.

"Instead of spending time making websites, maybe Ken Cuccinelli should spend a little more time convincing Republican business leaders to stop abandoning him in droves as they endorse Terry McAuliffe," McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said. "Ken Cuccinelli's career-long extreme social agenda is alienating top Republicans who know Virginia businesses can't afford his radical policies."

More and more, campaigns and political organizations are registering domain names to host tongue-in-cheek attacks on candidates. Done well, they can pop up in search results when voters are researching candidates and help define opponents, said one digital media strategist who has worked on campaigns.

"Online presence is the most significant part of political races these days," the strategist said. "I'm not saying that online ads are going to trump TV ads, but having an online narrative about your candidate is hugely important, and that's only going to get more important as every year passes."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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