RR: The first decade of online politics in Mississippi

December 17th, 2008 by Perry

This week I write in Reasonably Right about milestones in the first decade of Mississippi online politics.  Here are some excerpts:

In early 1998, Richard Bishop was interning at the Mississippi Republican Party, working on the United Republican Fund, a monthly giving mechanism that funds the party’s operations. “I had been learning HTML and building web pages for about six months. I thought if people could get an e-mail and sign-up for the URF online, it would be easier to increase response. So I got permission from Chairman Mike Retzer to register the domain, and put up news about the party, upcoming events, how to e-mail the staff.”

Msgop.org was the first party web site in Mississippi.

That year Bishop also worked on State Auditor Phil Bryant’s campaign web page, the first statewide official to have a web presence apart from a government site.

Brad Morris, now chief-of-staff to First District Congressman Travis Childers, produced an early landmark in 1998 by going live with MSPOL.com, the online version of his political newsletter that featured breaking news and a bulletin board for posting political gossip.

By 1999, every credible statewide candidate was online. A candidate in the Republican Primary for governor, Dan Gibson first provided a method to collect secure online campaign contributions by credit card (Bishop designed Gibson’s site as well). Nick Walters‘ campaign for Secretary of State combined his web site with campaign e-mails about his schedule and fundraising, an innovation at the time.

In 2000, a computer programmer named Lewis Napper from Jackson ran as a Libertarian against Senator Trent Lott. In 1993, Napper, incensed at a radio speech by Hillary Clinton, sat down at his keyboard and hammered out “The Bill of No Rights.” He e-mailed it to a few friends and it grew to an Internet legend, one of the early widespread Internet forwards.

Inspired by the egalitarian democratization of the news by folks like Matt Drudge, I launched MagnoliaReport.com in 2001 to provide news links, political rumors, and resources to the Mississippi’s online political consumers. The site continues today, operated by Josh Gregory at Frontier Strategies.

In 2004, Alan Lange started JacksonsNextMayor.com to track the race between Frank Melton and Harvey Johnson for mayor of Jackson. The site morphed into the broader MississippiPolitics.com and then migrated to YallPolitics.com in 2006. “We are probably best known for our coverage of the Dickie Scruggs scandal. We have had millions of page views driven by that story,” Lange said.

In 2007, John Leek launched Cotton Mouth to bring a pro-Democrat, pro-liberal perspective to Mississippi online politics. Jake Cooper, Jeff Walters and others joined Leek as voices from the left during the 2007 and 2008 Mississippi campaigns. Due to internal Democratic politics, Cotton Mouth was passed over as Mississippi’s official blog at the Democratic National Convention, a credential instead given to Casey Ann Hughes and her NatchezMs blog. Cotton Mouth made the trip to Denver and the DNC anyway.

Also from the left comes a project from James Thompson and Sam Hall, MississippiPerspective.org, managed by Blue Dot Group. Hall, a former reporter, editor, and Mississippi Democratic Party spokesman, most recently managed Jim Kitchen’s successful campaign for Mississippi Supreme Court. Hall used a campaign blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, video and an opposition attack web site as part of his online strategy.

You can read the full column at the Neshoba County Democrat: Perry/The migration of politics online

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