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Title: A local perspective
Date: 2008-08-17

Well, since it's made it's way to [Slashdot][1], I should probably blog about
[Sean Tevis's][2] political campaign. Tevis is running for a House seat in the
State of Kansas legislature. His district is practically down the block from
where I live, so I'm kinda affected by who wins that district, even if I can't
vote.

Tevis created an homage to XKCD about what _he_ thinks is the Matter With
Kansas. It briefly touches the absurdity of Kansas politics (go see how many
Republican seats go uncontested in Kansas), mentions a brief platform, and
introduces his internet based campaign donation system as something
newsworthy. Perhaps it's simply the nature of technical fiction, where
"writing it causes it to be," but it has indeed been featured in the LA times,
NPR, and now Slashdot. He's received numerous donations, many of which were
under 50 dollars.

But besides understanding young people, what's he going to do? What's his
platform? If you only read his website, you might not know, but he's a
Democratic candidate. His comic subtly presents his platform: real science
standards, progressive tax reform, and government efficiency. He's a promoting
some sort of 'best schools evar by 2020' plan, but you don't need a house seat
to instill pride in Kansas schools. You might also wonder who exactly is
against good schools, although a few School Boards have earned Kansas a...
reputation.

Maybe his opponent is against good schools? The comic suggests it, but the
only platform available on Arlen Siegfreid's [site][3] says "Quality
Education" which is vague enough that if Arlen loses he might consider a new
career in writing patents. Does Siegfreid's "quality education" endorse
creationism or fully funded schools?

Arlen's front page also contains the curious paragraph:

> Arlen Siegfreid's liberal, Mainstream Coalition-endorsed liberal Democratic
opponent has gained national attention raising tens of thousands online from
out-of-state donors. You can visit his report [here][4] and add up the out-of-
state numbers yourself -- plus an additional $67,000 of his donations are
unidentified as they are under the $50 limit required by the state.

You're in a **bad place** when your platform is based on your opponent rather
than what you stand for. They are at least smart enough to know what really
helps in local elections: name recognition. This is why they never mention
this opponent's name. Here we see two forms of democratic action in
opposition: engaging the undecided and uninvested, and rallying the base
constituency. Arlen isn't writing to the greater public; he writes to the
people who recognize the "Mainstream Coalition", or at least think it's a bad
thing. Apparently these people have money to donate. I doubt it will work; the
average citizen here is far more angry about property tax appraisal than Roe
v. Wade.

Of course, we don't vote with money in Kansas. Campaigns have to translate
those dollars into people in voting booths. Those out of state donors can't
vote here. Hell, _I_ can't vote in that race. His platform, at the end of the
day, has to appeal to the people voting. The good news is, as I alluded to
above, name recognition is half the battle in local elections. The other half
is party recognition. I look forward to discovering how one of the largest
campaign bankrolls in Kansas translates into votes.

One interesting thing about this system is that his major expenditures thus
far has been ~$4,000 to Paypal. Barack Obama says to look at how he runs his
campaign to tell how Barack would run his administration. Tevis's platform
includes government efficiency -- is 5 percent a good deal for an online
donation system?

   [1]: http://politics.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/08/16/1748246

   [2]: http://seantevis.com/kansas/3000/running-for-office-xkcd-style/

   [3]: http://www.arlensiegfreid.com/

   [4]: http://ethics.ks.gov/CFAScanned/House/2008ElecCycle/200807/H015ST_200807.pdf