Jesse Ventura and the Politics of IT

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's a technology lesson behind the success of Jesse Ventura, Utah state Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell (D) said at the Intergovernmental Technology Conference here.

Howell said Ventura -- the former pro wrestler turned Minnesota governor -- helped swing the election as an independent candidate by using World Wide Web sites, Internet "chat rooms" and other information technology tools to win the support of a large majority of Minnesota voters between the ages of 18 and 25.

Ventura's campaign demonstrated an understanding of the potential and power of technology, and that message resonated with younger voters, Howell said.

Officials at all levels of government need to learn how to take advantage of IT -- not just to run elections but to deliver services to their constituents, Howell said. He held up Utah as a model because the state last year asked its agencies to identify ways to deliver key services online.

Elected officials not plugged into technology risk being voted out of office, Howell said. "I think the election in 2000 will be the biggest election with technology [as a factor] that we've ever seen," he said. For proof, consider that the two early front-runners in the 2000 race for president -- Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) -- "are both right on it," said Howell, referring to the candidates' level of techno-savvy.

-- John Stein Monroe (john_monroe@fcw.com)

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