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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.

Afghanistan's president coming to Washington on Friday

Ashraf Ghani, left, president of Afghanistan, and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As the U.S. troop withdrawal accelerates, President Biden will welcome Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, at the White House on Friday.

Our thought bubble: Axios politics editor Glen Johnson, who traveled to Afghanistan while working for Secretary of State John Kerry, said inviting both Ghani and Abdullah to Washington shows the administration’s respect for the delicate balance of power in the country.

Educators face fines, harassment over critical race theory

People talk before the start of a rally against critical race theory being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Elementary school teachers, administrators and college professors are facing fines, physical threats, and fear of firing because of an organized push from the right to remove classroom discussions of systemic racism.

Why it matters: Moves to ban critical race theory are raising free speech concerns amid an absence of consistent parameters about what teachings are in or out of bounds.