Saturday I went to a meeting at UVSC with Pete Ashdown, who is campaigning for U.S. Senate against Orrin Hatch. Pete is the founder of Xmission, an ISP I have used and liked a lot, so I was glad to meet him in person and hear more of his ideas. I think his views on education, science, alternative fuel sources, and technology would be a breath of fresh compared to Orrin Hatch. He talked about using technology to give people better access to the political process — government is one of the last frontiers to which technology could bring a lot of transparency and access. On his campaign site, he has a collaboration wiki where anyone can sound off on political issues and give ideas for solving policy problems. I asked him if that meant he would become a puppet to the wiki, expressing concern that the most popular ideas aren’t always the best. He said, no, it isn’t a voting area, just a collaboration and brain-storming area. The best idea wins, not the most popular.
Some notes from his meeting:
- During the space race of the 1960′s, each dollar invested by the government in the space program produced $9 in private industry (for example, Teflon.) Not sure if space exploration could produce the same effect now. Maybe a space elevator could work?
- In favor of a flat tax on businesses. This would mean taxing 10 million businesses instead of 250 million people. Much easier, much simpler.
- In favor of alternative fuel sources including wind and nuclear.
- Sensitive to the high cost of health care, esp. as a business owner. If you consider private health care a tax, we pay more in taxes than other industrialized countries.
- Wants to look at Japan’s dual model for health insurance — everyone receives basic (catastrophic?) care from the government, everything else must be secured through private insurance.
- In favor of trying things that have worked on a smaller scale. For instance, Connecticut has some education ideas he wants to try on a national level.
- Pete is offering free internet services (web hosting, etc.) to any political candidate during his or her campaign. He thinks access to TV air time and billboards ought to work the same way.
- In favor of building infrastructure, esp. internet infrastructure. Shares vision of Eisenhower who built the interstate highway system. Right now the U.S. is 16th in broadband deployment.
I wrote before that I was supporting Steve Urquhart’s campaign for U.S. Senate. (He has since dropped out of the race.) Steve Urquhart is a young, tech-savvy Republican who I thought would bring some much needed innovation to Orrin Hatch’s seat. Like Steve, Pete is also young and tech-savvy, and from what I could tell a family man and a really nice guy. But Pete is a Democrat, and I wonder if he can really win in Utah. I’m not yet sure if he will appeal to the conservative masses here. I’m also concerned that as a junior senator he might have to simply fall in line with Ted Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein, instead of being able to implement some of his good ideas.
Pete faces an uphill battle in conservative Utah, and I’m not yet sure if he’s conservative enough for me. (I like his positions on technology, science, education, and alternative fuel sources, but I need to learn about a few more issues.) From what I can tell, our country would do well to have 50 Pete Ashdowns in the Senate because he’s a proponent of transparency and access to government. He’s worth a look as you consider whom to vote for.