Aug 21, 2020 - Technology

The tech workers boosting down-ballot Democrats

Illustration of a woman at a podium standing on a stack of laptops. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some 13,500 tech workers with day jobs at companies like Facebook, Google, Netflix and Disney are volunteering in their spare time to help down-ballot Democratic candidates in competitive state-level races with digital tools and marketing.

Why it matters: Democrats in recent years have fared worse at harnessing technology to their advantage in campaigning, treating campaigns less like a business than their Republican counterparts. The stakes are higher in building a tech-savvy campaign in 2020's incredibly competitive landscape.

By the numbers: Tech for Campaigns' 13,500 volunteers have to date worked on 468 election-related projects with 366 different campaigns, flipping three state chambers Democratic. The group is working in 21 different states this cycle.

  • Jessica Alter, a tech industry vet, launched the group in 2018 with two other liberal tech industry friends, Peter Kazanjy and Ian Ferguson. They saw a desperate need for Democrats to catch up to the digital age in campaigning.

What they're saying: Ricky Junquera, a Democrat running for Florida House District 118, told Axios small campaigns already struggle to afford consulting and digital services — and then COVID-19 hit, making things even harder.

  • Volunteers from Tech for Campaigns are handling Junquera's digital ads and texting outreach, he said, decreasing his campaign's spend on each tactic by 60-70%.
  • "We're not that sexy campaign at the top of the ticket," he said. "Money is hard to raise. They're like my fairy godmother. Otherwise, I don't have a shot."

The big picture: It's no secret that many tech workers are Democrats. Some see volunteering with the program as a way to get involved in politics while stuck quarantining due to the coronavirus.

  • "Managing a software product launch applies nicely to campaigns," Michael Danahy, a volunteer working on the email campaigns for Democrat Patricia Sigman's Florida Senate race, told Axios.
  • Danahy said he spends about an hour per day doing campaign work: "I have all this energy I want to put toward politics and changing the world, and there is only so much voting and donating I can do."
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