Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

UCD grad leads Republicans into digital fray

andy barkettW

Andy Barkett, chief technology officer for the Republican National Committee, is seen in San Francisco on Sept. 25. Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle photo

By
From page A7 | October 13, 2013 |

By Joe Garofoli

Andy Barkett is a futuristic kind of Republican, a 33-year-old former Facebook and Google engineer who is a creature of the libertarian side of Silicon Valley.

The 2009 graduate of UC Davis’ Bay Area master of business administration program wasn’t even registered as a Republican before he got his new gig in June as the first-ever chief technology officer of the Republican National Committee.

Now he’s being hailed as a godsend to the GOP as he spends half his time darting across the country raising money to fund the party’s attempt to close its the digital gap with Democrats and the other half pounding out code in the RNC’s new San Mateo office.

But Barkett is finding that there’s a big difference between working at a high-speed tech company and the plodding, bureaucratic pace of the political world.

“One of the starkest differences between Washington and Silicon Valley for me has been the speed at which things move,” Barkett said last week in San Francisco. “At Facebook, there are signs on the wall that say, ‘Every day feels like a week.’ Meaning that you can have an idea in the morning, by that afternoon you write the code, and the next day you’re trying it out on 1.1 billion users. There’s not enough of that mentality in the political space.”

Getting around

He’s been kinetic since being hired. One night last week, he was talking to Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker — whom Barkett admires for his tough stand against public-sector unions — and the next day he was headed to address a venture capital conference in Marin County.

During his travels, Barkett said, people tell him that “I didn’t want to give to the RNC, but I will help you.” So last week, the RNC rolled out a new Digital and Data Fund, where contributions to the national party will be earmarked for the improved use of technology to attract more votes to the GOP.

Already, Barkett is set to begin road-testing some of the new technology his fledgling team has created, both in New York City and in a place to be determined in California. One is a tool that would help campaign staff better target people when they canvas door-to-door.

Digital guinea pig

He envisions using the California Republican Party, which has new, tech-friendly leadership, as the digital guinea pig for many of the new ventures coming out of the RNC’s laboratory.

“In the few months since Andy has joined our team, he’s already started changing the way we operate here at the RNC — centering everything we do around data and technology like never before,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

“What we are doing is designed to leapfrog the Democrats by revitalizing our operations to benefit Republicans up and down the ballot for cycles to come,” Priebus said.

That leapfrog will be tough.

Where’s the talent?

“The question is, does the GOP have the talent pool to do this? It’s an unanswered question,” said Nick Judd, who until August was the managing editor of TechPresident.com, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes technology, politics and government.

While Barkett is confident that the new tech focus will make a difference in the 2014 midterm elections, he acknowledged that a big challenge is “lack of talent. I’d say there were maybe half a dozen really smart guys in this tech area within the RNC. We obviously need a whole lot more than that,” he said.

The other, he said, was a “lack of a connection between (computer) systems. There were all these systems out there, but none of them talk to each other. So people have all of this really valuable data about voters, but this system doesn’t speak the same language as another system.

“This is something I learned at Facebook. There’s a huge network effect in sharing that information. There’s a spillover. It’s valuable in ways you wouldn’t have thought of when you collected it.”

Divide between parties

Barkett acknowledged a digital divide between the parties. For one, Republicans “don’t have enough data scientists … a person whose primary skill is taking very disparate things — understanding statistics, some math — and be able to look inside this data and find something out about it” that ultimately will deliver more votes to the GOP.

But the Democrats’ digital edge is about more than technologists or technology, said Ethan Roeder, who ran the data departments for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns.

“The biggest single advantage we enjoyed (in 2012) was cultural. It’s true that we had a much larger technology team, digital team, analytics team. But frankly, the reason that we were able to deliver votes on election day for Barack Obama was because the leadership of the campaign allowed the evidence — the data, the analytics — to inform the strategy. And that requires a leap of faith.”

Roeder said, “It’s a myth that all techies are Democrats. It’s just not true. The Republicans have money to throw at talent — at analysts and technologists. The real challenge there is cultural.”

The hidden GOP

Barkett, who was raised in Sacramento and now lives in Redwood City, agreed that there are plenty of Republicans in Silicon Valley. They’re just not visible yet.

“The Republican brand is in a little bit of the doldrums, I don’t think that’s unfair to say. Right now, even if you want lower taxes, even if you want a pro-business agenda, even if you want a pro-business immigration policy, it’s not that flattering to call yourself a Republican. You’re not quite sure what your friends would think.

“I was worried that I would lose friends when this announcement came out. But I didn’t. Not one,” he said.

He has a vision for what his new Silicon Valley GOP operation would look like.

“I want guys in rooms with pizza boxes working all night and feeling ownership over this project and feeling that we have to get this done now. There are some people in Washington who are like that. But that mentality of ‘let’s just dive in and solve this right now, don’t talk about it, don’t hire a vendor to hire another vendor, let’s just do it right now.’ That’s not prevalent enough.”

— Reach Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com

Comments

comments

San Francisco Chronicle

.

News

 
Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

Bauer garden marks one year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Grande site has been a convoluted saga

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

.

Forum

Already made herself at home

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Keep our green waste piles

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
How to make a good living

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Health problems mean he’s checked out

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

 
This epidemic should scare us

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

.

Sports

New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

 
Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

 
Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

Wanda P. Daley

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8