Staff writers Armine Pilikian and James Douglas Haddon contributed to this story.
It was a bittersweet end to an exciting few months for would-be Mountain View City Council member, Aaron Jabbari, who tried to buck the trend of excessive finance spending by running a cash-free, paperless campaign and use Facebook as a new way to connect with voters.
At 21, Jabbari was the youngest of three challengers trying to unseat three incumbents all of whom relied on a traditional campaign playbook – spending money and putting out placards – to get re-elected.
Jabbari pulled in a scant 6.72 percent of 30,649 votes cast, trailing incumbents Margaret Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant, and Jac Siegel who carried 26.52 percent, 22.56 percent, and 20.73 percent of the vote respectively. Challengers Dan Waylonis came in fourth with 13.06 percent, while Greg David captured 10.41 percent.
It was an unconventional approach for an unconventional candidate.
Last summer, he launched a Facebook page and updated it regularly with current news items, comments, and his own views on the issues. His approach was more like a viral fireside chat than a stump speech. Over the course of the four-month campaign, those views evolved as he engaged with Mountain View voters online, he said.
“The reason that I took that approach is that people should not have to have a lot of money to get involved in local politics or politics as a whole,” Jabbari said of his Facebook strategy
With a campaign spending capped by a municipal ordinance, no candidate in this race spent to excess. Records show incumbents Margaret Abe-Koga, Mayor Ronit Bryant and Jac Siegel raised $27,620, $9,741 and $11,640 respectively. Challenger Dan Waylonis raised $1,788; Greg David , less than $1,000. Having to raise a lot of money to campaign “creates a barrier to entry for working people and the less economically fortunate,” Jabbari said. “Both these problems can be overcome if you can connect with your constituency on a digital level.”
Robert Cox a member of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association said he thought most voters relied on local newspaper endorsements in addition to “the campaign literature they have seen, and the number of campaign signs they see on the street.”