Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comics used against another anti-gay politician

Although Oklahoma county commissioner Brent Rinehart's bizarre anti-gay comic blew up in his face last night, a properly done comic has created viral interest in one legislative campaign in Kansas and is bringing in massive contributions. Democrat Sean Tevis (right), running for Kansas's 15th legislative district House seat against an entrenched incumbent Republican, has raised $96,512.76 in less than two weeks -- $95,312.76 of it online -- using a clever online cartoon. His comic is based on xkcd, a stick figure strip that is popular with programmers and other geeks and wonks. Tevis is a programmer and former journalist.

In contrast, Tevis' opponent, Republican incumbent Arlen Siegfreid, has raised only $5,492.00 since 01 Jan 2008, bringing his cash available this period to $16,910.27. Much of it is from PACs, corporations, and other special interests. Siegfreid caused a bit of a fuss last year when Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed an executive order protecting state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The numbers behind Tevis' success are staggering. According to his 28 Jul 2008 campaign finance report, $69,391.93 of his contributions were of $50 or less, and there were 5,449 of those. Almost all of his itemized contributions were received in a single three-day period. A blurb about his web site was posted on geek favorite BoingBoing and another on Daily Kos on 16 Jul, and the contributions started pouring in.

The comic strip itself is quirky and amusing, with a stick-figure Tevis listening to a crackpot politician rail against gay marriage and other right-wing shibboleths. Tevis' masterstroke, though, was to embed a special message in the strip's source code asking any geeks who bothered studying the code (there are people who do that for fun *ahem*) to send in an amount ending in 88¢ to tag themselves as fellow geeks. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 20% of his 5,698 online donors have done that.

The entire strip is here. And he's married.

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