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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
The geek who would be governor
Among the candidates vying to run the state of California is a self-confessed geek with political ambition, as BBC News Online technology reporter Jo Twist found out.

Georgina Russell, California governor contender at her computer (Image: Ruchir Tewari)
Georgy does not mind her "geek" label
Georgy Russell loves playing the snowboarding video game, SSX Tricky, on her PlayStation 2 console.

She had her first computer when she was only seven and one of her favourite websites is Homestar Runner, featuring an animated masked wrestler character with attitude.

Like any young thing, nowadays she cannot be without her mobile phone.

Her hero is the Linux author, Linus Torvalds, and she spends a lot of time on the internet.

She gets called a "geek" by lots of people, but she knows it is true and is rather proud of it.

Georgy Russell also wants to be the California state governor.

Boom and bust

The 26-year-old Democrat with "brains, beauty, and leadership" has joined the race to be the new governor in a crucial recall election.

Included in the odd cast of over 100 contenders is film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, porn publisher Larry Flynt, an "adult film actress" and Michael Jackson, but not that one.

The vote has been called because of the state's financial crisis and growing dissatisfaction with the way the current Governor, Gray Davis, has dealt with it.

Georgina Russell, California governor contender  (Image: Sean Penello)
I have people linking to my website from their blogs and websites and if you have 10,000 readers on your blog a day, that's a lot of people
Georgy Russell, California governor candidate
Not so long ago, California was at the pinnacle of a hi-tech economic explosion, fuelled by the dot.coms centred around Silicon Valley.

But now the state is in $38bn debt and voters have to decide on 7 October whether to recall Mr Davis. If the recall vote goes through, they have to choose who should replace him.

Ms Russell is hoping to "force some issues" by running, and she has a powerful group of backers: the technology community.

Linux lover

She studied computer science, became a software engineer and helped found a start-up which used the open source Linux operating system as its backbone.

Politics may not seem like a natural step, but her motivation to run in the election is reflected in her attitude to technology.

"I just love being able to actually build something, make it work and see the result of that," she told BBC News Online.

"With Linux, when you tinker around what comes out might not work at all. But on other hand, something awesome can come out of it."

"I guess this particular race is like an open-source race. Anyone can jump in there," she muses.

Unfortunately, the media limelight surrounding the governor race has been hogged by the celebrities and it seems unlikely the outcome will be "awesome".

Having so many people running is great, as far as she's concerned, because it demonstrates "democracy in action".

"But the American news media has made it more into a circus than it is. And Arnie adds a lot of the circus element to it."

Net appeal

She may not have presence as a celebrity on the big screen, but she has more web presence than any of them.

Her grassroots campaign which relies on virtual word of mouth, e-mails and blogs - like online diaries which link to others.

"I have people linking to my website from their blogs and websites and if you have 10,000 readers on your blog a day, that's a lot of people."

Georgy raises money selling merchandise
Georgy's campaign is not just about pants

She has done interviews over instant messaging and fielded questions via a message board about her campaign issues.

Support also comes in the form of hard cash. Unlike cash-soaked celebrities, she raised the $3,500 (2,200) needed to register for the race through online contributions, using a website which handles donations online.

Fans have been snapping up her "Georgy" merchandise, too.

"Georgy for Governor" g-strings and boxer shorts are selling like hotcakes on her website, along with mugs, caps and "babydoll" t-shirts.

But it is not about tight tees and pants. What drives her is a concern for "fairness and respect for all citizens."

Hard drive

The state of the economy is top of her list.

"We need to target this house of cards system that has been set up", Ms Russell explains.

"At the moment, the deficit we have just gets pushed further away to be dealt with in future years. But we need to get it back on track.

"None of the existing candidates will talk about how to do this."

However, her proposal could end up targeting her own kind, the technology specialists who powered the high-tech economic boom.

"I want to introduce a 1% tax hike on the high earners in the state - those earning over $500,000 or maybe even $250,000. It would only be temporary."

Getting more local services online, introducing open source technology, like Linux, to schools are all part of her technological vision too.

It remains to be seen if the new governor - if there is one - shares the hi-tech ambitions of the "geek's governor".

California's continuing crisis
07 Aug 03  |  Americas

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