Progressive Democrats in rural red districts are getting funded by lefty Silicon Valley techies

Maciej Ceglowski (previously) is one of Silicon Valley's sharpest critics, admonishing technologists for failing to consider ethics as they build and deploy products; one of his post-Trump initiatives is the Great Slate, a fundraising effort that urges techies to contribute to the campaigns of Democratic hopefuls in "less-affluent, often rural Republican-leaning districts," where the DCCC won't direct resources because candidates can't raise money of their own.

Ceglowski picks fieldwork-oriented candidates who aren't afraid to ring doorbells, and who focus campaigns on bringing non-voters to the polls. Ceglowski trains the candidates he chooses in tech security, showing them how to organize campaigns online and protect them from politically motivated hacking.

The Great Slate is making a difference in races where the Democratic establishment has ceded to the GOP, abandoning the people who live there to deep-pocketed reactionary Republicans.

“It’s been a godsend,” says Little Rock’s Paul Spencer. As a campaign finance reformer, Spencer doesn’t take PAC money. This left his campaign so cash-strapped they only had the money to boost a few Facebook posts. After the Great Slate’s fundraising, they now have yard signs, billboards, and additional staffers. Being able to wake up every morning to money in their ActBlue account means that Spencer spends less time planning fundraisers in people’s homes or on phone calls with prospective donors, and more time going door-to-door and holding town halls — which is exactly what Spencer would rather be doing. “The fundraising is the most godawful thing in the universe,” he told me.

Because candidates for Spencer’s district typically come from the most affluent neighborhoods, they fundraise in those same neighborhoods. As a result, huge swathes of the district — particularly neighborhoods that are predominantly people of color — don’t have their interests represented. The district may lean Republican in elections, but Spencer’s theory is that you don’t have to be “Republican-lite” to win.

The candidates of the Great Slate are progressive, but there’s no ideological litmus test. Some are advocates for universal health care, others are driven by immigration reform and the well-being of DACA recipients. There are Catholics on the slate, which raises some questions about how those candidates will approach reproductive issues. (Spencer himself is a devout Catholic, but a campaign spokesperson told me he opposed any restrictions on a woman’s right to choose or her ability to procure birth control.) Ceglowski says he was looking for viable candidates who were focused on opening field offices, canvassing, knocking on doors, and expanding the voter base — building grassroots structures that, even if they ultimately didn’t win, would become resources for future elections.

Great Slate

Meet the campaign connecting affluent techies with progressive candidates around the country [Sarah Jeong/The Verge]