RybakThis is democracy democratic campaigning in action: rtrybakformayor.blogspot.com

Still working some kinks out, but it looks promising. I've been planning on approaching the Mayor with the idea of a weekly videoblog, but I haven't had time.

The Pioneer Press article (posted in full below) has on odd statement: "But the use of blogs as an electoral tool is rare among politicians." Buh? Every presidential candidate had them. I think many (esp. urban?) politicans will have them, if they're smart and want to listen to the people they want to represent.

By the way? The first politician blogger, near as I can tell, was Minnesota State Rep. Ray Cox. He started in December 2002. Take that Howard Dean! Here's an MPR interview with Cox from March 2003, where he states he's using the blog as a governing tool.

Mayor Rybak launches re-election bid
Blog, online forum will aid campaign
Pioneer Press

To the surprise of few, Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak announced Sunday he is running for re-election.

But what is surprising is how Rybak plans to use the Internet to help connect with voters. Tonight, Rybak will unveil his campaign Web log, or blog, a part online diary and part forum that many credit with helping launch Howard Dean — temporarily — to the top of the race for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

Blogs are known as the refuge of amateur pundits. They feature topical commentary and are marked by free-flowing discussion between the blogger and his or her readers. Some, such as Instapundit.com or the Twin Cities' own Power Line, have risen to national prominence.

But the use of blogs as an electoral tool is rare among politicians.

"My hope with this campaign is that, using tools like the Internet and grass-roots organizations, we can build an organization that will not only help me get re-elected but continue to build a base for a new Democratic party," Rybak said after announcing his re-election bid Sunday at Franklin ArtWorks in Minneapolis.

John Palfrey, the executive director of the Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, said few politicians have embraced blogs. One reason, he speculated, is that they leave a permanent record, and politicians with higher ambitions might be afraid to write something that comes back to haunt them.

"Do you really want to leave a record?" Palfrey asked.

But Palfrey said blogs help candidates keep their finger on the pulse of the electorate. He also said they help bring party activists into the political process. But after the 2004 election — the first to see blogs used as part of national campaigns — the jury's still out on whether they help candidates win.

"They're sort of cool and fun, but they weren't necessarily effective in terms of turning into votes," Palfrey said.

Dean was the first widely known politician to put blogs to work in his campaign. Rybak — a former Internet consultant who served as Dean's state campaign chairman — has seen the results firsthand, and hopes to emulate Dean's success on his Web site, rtrybak.com.

"Because I came out of this world, it's pretty natural for me," Rybak said.

Rybak's foray into politics was linked with the Internet. During Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential run, Rybak was responsible for sending bulk e-mails to Bradley supporters. It is also where he met the campaign managers for his first mayoral run.

Dean used his blog both as a pulpit and as a way to connect with supporters, many who became fanatical supporters known as "Deaniacs."

"The campaign seemed much more accessible" as a result of the blog, said Steven Clift, chairman of the Twin Cities-based online political forum e-Democracy.org, which Rybak frequents.

Clift predicted that more politicians would get the blog bug as a way to connect more closely with supporters.

"I would predict that at least three-quarters of the (local) candidates who will win will have a political blog in the next election," Clift said.

But he said blogs don't necessarily lead to votes.

"It's more a sign that the campaign is effective than the blog being effective," Clift said. "What you tend to see is that allows the campaign to bring more people into the heart of the effort."

Rybak said he hopes to use his blog as a platform not only to announce key policy positions, but to help draft them. It's just an extension of what he already does, Rybak said, adding that he helped craft a Minneapolis smoking ban after trading a few hundred e-mails with constituents.

"I want to go to citizens when ideas are just being developed, float those thoughts, and hopefully have citizens make them better," Rybak said. "I'm very openly going to say that I want citizens to help me craft positions."

Rybak won office by defeating incumbent Sharon Sayles Belton in 2001. He already has one potentially strong challenger from within his party, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who entered the race a month ago.

Rybak will seek the DFL endorsement in May but said he hasn't decided whether he will stay in the race if the party chooses another candidate. That contrasts with McLaughlin, who said he will drop out if he doesn't get the party's backing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Jason Hoppin can be reached at jhoppin@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2120.

January 31, 2005 at 12:31 PM in Local, Weblogs | Permalink


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