Sitka teenager No. 1 online Dean supporter

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

SITKA He may be only 14 years old, but Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins is a player in the field of national politics.

For his work on the Howard Dean presidential campaign, the Sitka High School freshman has been interviewed by the Washing-ton Post and the Internet magazine

Kreiss-Tomkins also is mentioned by Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi in the current issue of the New Republic magazine, and he was interviewed last Sunday by reporter Steve Inskeep on the National Public Radio program ''All Things Considered.''

So how has Kreiss-Tomkins, who plays in the Sitka High School jazz band and is on the school's drama and debate team, come to play a big enough role in the Dean campaign to draw the attention of national media?

''He's the top 'DeanLinker' on our Web site,'' said Dean campaign organizer Murshed Zaheed.

The official Dean Web site shows a photograph of Kreiss-Tomkins in a Blatchley Middle School Huskies T-shirt. The young Dean enthusiast is credited with having introduced 469 new supporters to the "DeanLink" Web site as of Saturday, according to the Web site. Overall, the site now has more than 22,000 signed up.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's effective use of the Internet to promote his presidential ambitions and to raise money has already written a new chapter in American politics.

''He just comes onto our Web site and just connects with other folks,'' Zaheed said.

Kreiss-Tomkins, whose parents are not Dean supporters, said he had never been involved in politics before the Dean campaign began, and when he first got interested he had no idea he would be able to get as far into it as he has.

''I got interested in (Dean) last December, and before that I was sort of interested in politics,'' he said. ''Before, I was always liberal, but I didn't know what the issues were.''

Kreiss-Tomkins said he researched all the Democratic candidates last year, and favored Dean because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and his stances on education and the environment.

Still, he said, it wasn't until he heard Dean speak on National Public Radio a year ago that he threw his allegiance to the then virtually unknown candidate.

Kreiss-Tomkins' first action in the Dean campaign was to join a small Dean-connected Internet message board and e-mail list. Then, as the campaign became more Web savvy, Kreiss-Tomkins' involvement increased.

In January, he got an Alaska branch of the National Dean Network up and running on the Internet, and in doing so made his first contact with the national campaign staff in Burlington, Vt.

Kreiss-Tomkins has since set up the Web site and has had a growing involvement with the national campaign office, putting in hundreds of volunteer hours.

Because he is under 18, Kreiss-Tomkins is not permitted to be involved in any fund-raising activities for the campaign, but he can still lend a hand on any number of projects such as building campaign data bases and writing letters to Democrats in other states.

He also has established a Dean for President group in Sitka.

All told, Kreiss-Tomkins estimates he has put in at least one hour a day volunteering for Dean this year over the Internet, and he hopes next summer he can do some hands-on work at the national campaign office.

In the meantime, he expects to spend a lot more hours at his computer keyboard working to get the Democratic nomination for his candidate.

And what if Dean doesn't get the nomination?

''I'll work for whoever is the candidate if they have a fighting chance against Bush,'' Kreiss-Tomkins said. ''However, I do think Dean would do the best against Bush.''

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