Arkansas Governor Holds Internet Chat

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who already spends an hour each month on radio and television answering questions from Arkansas citizens, took to the Internet Wednesday evening for his first live online chat session.

More than 600 people sent in questions during the session, with another 900-plus people e-mailing questions afterwards. A moderator controlled the flow of questions, sorting out duplicates and forwarding questions to the governor as soon as he was ready.

"He was really pumped up about it — he was putting those answers out pretty quickly," said Arkansas spokesman Jim Harris.

The governor's office is working to handle the questions that came in after the session. Questions asking about specific programs or seeking detailed information are being forwarded to the appropriate agencies, while Huckabee is answering policy-related questions.

Harris said it was Huckabee's idea to host the chat session. The governor makes a point of giving Arkansas people as much direct access to him as possible, including question-and-answer sessions on the Arkansas Radio Network and Arkansas Educational Television network.

"He likes to go straight to the people," Harris said. "He thought, 'What better way to answer questions than online.'"

Heading into Wednesday, the governor's office had no idea how many people would participate in the session. But given the response, "we will definitely do it again," possibly on a monthly basis, Harris said.

Huckabee is also launching the Governor's Electronic Message Service (www.state.ar.us/governor/gems/), which includes both an electronic newsletter and a discussion forum. The governor will send out the newsletter periodically to address a specific issue. In the debut issue — coming out soon — Huckabee will explain how the state plans to spend its share of the tobacco settlement.

The discussion forum provides a place to pose questions for both the governor and other members of the public to answer. As of Jan. 6, 24 questions or comments had been posed, covering about a dozen topics.

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