Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

A former Google executive is vying for Susan Collins' Senate seat

Ross LaJeunesse

Ross LaJeunesse. Photo: Ross for Maine

Ross LaJeunesse, the former Google executive running for a Senate seat in Maine as a Democrat, is laying out his plan for regulating tech.

Why it matters: The former Google executive made headlines earlier this year when he detailed his exit from the company. Now he is hoping to parlay his tech know-how into a Senate seat.

  • "We don't have people in Congress who even understand the basics around tech, let alone how to make sure everyone benefits," LaJeunesse said in an interview. "It's crazy."

LaJeunesse's 10-point tech agenda covers a range of issues, including:

  • Passing strong national privacy legislation that lets consumers be compensated for the use of their data or use internet services without sharing their data at all.
  • Helping prepare American workers for the impacts of AI and automation. "We are facing a tsunami of job disruption," he said, and Congress is sticking its head in the sand. "I almost feel it's criminal."
  • Enacting broad net neutrality protections.

To highlight one pressing tech issue — so-called deepfakes — LaJeunesse's campaign created a video showing Susan Collins voting to convict Trump on impeachment. (She voted to acquit.) Congress, he says, has taken no action on deepfakes and not done enough to protect elections more broadly.

  • The dig at Collins serves another purpose, as LaJeunesse is one of four Democrats competing to unseat the incumbent senator.

Expanding access to high-speed Internet, LaJeunesse says, is the top item on his list.

  • When he and his husband moved back to Maine, he recalls, it wasn't easy to find a house.
  • "We had to be very careful where we moved," he says — not because he was worried about finding a gay-friendly neighborhood, but rather, he had to find one with fast enough internet for his husband to telecommute.

What's next: LaJeunesse is hoping to get to Washington, of course. But even if he doesn't get the Democratic nomination, he plans to work to elect whomever does.

  • "I am going to support that person 100%," he said. "We really need to retire Susan Collins."

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