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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."

Go deeper

All eyes — and $$$ — on Georgia

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Brace yourself for Part II of the 2020 election — it starts today, in Georgia. Hundreds of millions of dollars are about to pour into the Peach State, now that control of the Senate — and the fate of the next president's agenda — hinges on runoffs for not one but both of the state's seats, set for Jan. 5.

Why it matters: If Joe Biden goes to the White House, the outcomes of these races will determine whether he can move aggressively to enact Democratic policy priorities and confirm his top cabinet and judicial nominees.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker