California State Assembly Member Buffy Wicks joined our HGL board two years ago to support the emerging political tech platforms that have helped her win campaigns throughout her career. To Buffy, political tech is a mechanism to develop a strong pipeline of progressive leaders across the ballot nationwide. We had a great time chatting with Buffy about her personal story and are so proud to have her on our board.
Buffy comes from a small, rural, working class town in California. With strong interest in politics throughout high school and college, Buffy began as an anti-war community organizer in 2003. Around the same time, Buffy’s best friend was diagnosed with AIDS and without access to health insurance, they were at a loss for what to do. How could a country that was spending billions of dollars at war fail to provide the most basic healthcare to its people?
Inspired to make change, Buffy joined Howard Dean’s presidential campaign as an organizer in early primary states. Her time with Dean for America introduced her to national campaign work, where she learned about capacity development in the wake of online organizing and campaign technology. In these early years of political tech, Dean for America had developed “Dean Link,” a pre-Facebook online organizing tool.
After Dean for America, she worked as an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Worker Union and then joined Obama for America in 2008 as the California Field Director. With only six staff organizers in California, Buffy’s team turned to campaign tech as a way to reach the hundreds of thousands of voters who were hungry to engage in electoral politics. She partnered with Google engineers who volunteered time to develop a calling tool software that also automated organizing tasks like pulling voter files and developing walk lists for organizers. Buffy recognized technology’s ability to empower campaign volunteers and this tool became the key organizing platform for OFA in 2012.
Flash forward to 2016. Buffy has built a robust career at the intersection of organizing, campaign strategy, and innovation. In the days before the election, she was excitedly expecting the arrival of a baby girl, just as the first female president would be voted into office. Instead, her daughter arrived as Trump was elected. With her new baby in tow, Buffy decided to run for office herself as a way to fight back, once again. In 2018, she was elected as a California State Assembly Member representing Berkeley, Emeryville, Richmond, and portions of Oakland.
Armed with her political tech prowess, Buffy leveraged a couple of key technology tools to power her state-level race. VoterCircle, an HGL portfolio company, helped Buffy and her team engage with nationwide voters who had connections to the Bay Area. She also used RevUp, which helped her identify potential donors and solicit donations more strategically.
Ultimately political tech is one of many tools in the diverse campaign toolkit, and even a political tech expert like Buffy knows that nothing can take the place of face-to-face engagement with voters. Particularly for down-ballot races, progressive political tech platforms that offer a reasonable cost and a customer-centric platform can allow candidates and staffers to spend less time in clunky spreadsheets and more time with the people who matter: voters.