This evening, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, sat in a room with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White and talked into a camera. Around the state, Texans were welcomed to watch online and submit questions.
Watson said he anticipates this will be the town hall format of the future. Other Texas politicians, like U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, have also embraced virtual town halls as a way to reach constituents.
White set out to frame his opponent, Gov. Rick Perry, as an ideologue and a “classic case of a career politician.” The team of Watson and White discussed the need to reform public education in Texas, the need to maintain clean water and air quality, the upcoming budget crisis, White's opponent's work schedule, and other matters. The Trans-Texas Corridor was name checked, as was the Texas Projection Measure. A "Mr. Cook", a.k.a. Democratic consultant Harold Cook, tweeted a question asking if White would live in a rental mansion like Perry. White said he would live in a double-wide trailer.
As the meeting carried on, a number of viewers began tweeting the address for a new campaign website, shootstraighttexas.com, which spokeswoman Katy Bacon says recently made a soft launch.
UPDATE: This post originally said, based on a viewer-counter on the screen, that "attendance at the town hall of the future peaked at just fewer than 170 viewers." According to the Watson campaign, after some time to process, preliminary numbers out of UStream show that approximately 900 unique viewers stopped by the online town hall.
UPDATE 8:16pm: At least a handful of the viewers were members of the opponent's campaign team. Gov. Rick Perry's spokesman Mark Miner released a statement following the virtual town hall, saying, "Texans having a difficult time sleeping this evening may want to replay Bill White’s comments."