Larry Lessig: I'm not running for Congress

The Stanford Law prof says that Internet fandom isn't enough to win against a well-known local politician also seeking the seat.

Larry Lessig won't be running for the U.S. Congress after all.

Lessig said on Monday that he won't try to seek election in the congressional district stretching from the western edge of San Francisco down the peninsula into Silicon Valley. The seat was left vacant by the death of Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos this month, and Lessig said last week he was considering a campaign.

His decision to bow out was based on polls, said Lessig, a Stanford University Law professor, creator of Creative Commons, and free culture activist. A pollster he hired said there would be "no possible way" to win and that Lessig would certainly "lose in a big way."

That's because Lessig would be facing former state senator Jackie Speier, who enjoys the undeniable advantages of (a) being endorsed by Lantos, (b) having a year to work on her campaign, (c) being so effective in funneling tax dollars to the area that she has a Caltrain locomotive named after her, and (d) being a permanent part of the local Democratic Party apparatus since being elected in 1980 as a county supervisor.

This puts to rest a recent flurry of Let's Elect Larry enthusiasm (and, of course, a Facebook group) that had already raised $4,978 and for all we know, began to print up yard signs.

Lessig would, no doubt, have been a principled and intelligent campaigner for copyright reform and fair use rights. But there's more to politics in Silicon Valley than having an enthusiastic Internet fan base--as Barack Obama found out firsthand--and there's probably more that voters want from a politician than a law prof who takes on Disney, Mickey Mouse, and the duration of copyright. But it's too early to count out Lessig for good: his new project is modestly called change-congress.org.

About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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