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The tech bro / Bernie bro overlap is enough to bring the Sanders campaign down to the wire

"I gotta say it feels like a startup gone right," said Gobbler CEO Chris Kantrowitz.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Campaigns In Los Angeles Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party's likely presidential nominee Monday night, hours before the polls opened this morning in California and five other primary voting states.

But neither Clinton nor her insurgent challenger, Bernie Sanders, is prepared to say the race is over. Indeed, the Vermont Senator has vowed to battle for the nomination all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

In the final moments of the 2016 Democratic primary season, the Sanders campaign is leaning to an unprecedented degree on its tech. If Barack Obama's 2008 efforts marked the birth of digital organizing, the Sanders campaign will be remembered for its embrace of grassroots efforts made possible by social networks like Facebook and Twitter, communications apps like Slack and coding communities like GitHub.

Think of it as the open source political campaign, where official rallies and online tools for printing fliers, canvassing and phone banking are augmented by volunteer-run events and independently created apps that turn photos into Bernie selfies, generate Bernie memes or turn dialing-for-Bernie into a game.

"There are dozens of things that have been built, not by the campaign, but [by] supporters of Bernie," said Gobbler CEO Chris Kantrowitz, a Sanders supporter who said he started his own Facebook group called Hackers for Bernie to spur development of cool tools to aid the election effort.

Technology executives talk all the time about moonshots — those ambitious, even audacious efforts to solve big problems. Kantrowitz adopted Sanders as his project for 2016. The serial entrepreneur, who has launched gaming and music tech companies, is applying his connections, fund-raising skills and technical savvy to the Vermont senator's election campaign.

"I gotta say, it feels like a startup gone right," said Kantrowitz, from the Sanders campaign headquarters on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles on the eve of the California primary, where he took a break from working the phones. "It's inspired and beautiful."

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Tom Tripp joined a small group of Bernie backers at a meeting spot that befitted the Vermont senator's insurgent campaign: The Revolution Cafe in West Oakland.

Tripp moved to Silicon Valley from Gainesville, Fla., six years ago for a digital media job at the University of California, Berkeley. While he supported Democratic candidates in the past — notably, Obama in 2008 — he hasn't done the sort of door-to-door canvassing he's doing on this afternoon, sporting a Feel the Bern T-shirt, a clipboard and a passion for the candidate.

He learned of the door-knocking initiative in the same way that he's participated in a half-dozen other volunteer opportunities: Via Facebook updates. He's also tapped into campaign tools, like the Bernie Dialer, which places calls for him on behalf of the candidate from his laptop, or the Bernie Friend Finder, which tags friends on Facebook and reminds them to vote.

"I'm feeling pretty good about the primary. I'm still not sure how it will end up," said Tripp of the California balloting. "But I'm very hopeful for Bernie and the progressive down-ticket candidates."

Tripp resembles the young, white, college-educated men in Silicon Valley and beyond who have formed the enthusiastic core of the Sanders campaign. Sanders is the overwhelming choice of California voters under age 30, who back him over his primary opponent by a 5 to 1 margin, according to the most recent Field Poll.

That Sanders is a tech darling is also reflected in the campaign donations.

The candidate's message of political disruption has connected with the industry's voters, allowing him to raise twice as much as his primary opponent, largely on the strength of small-dollar donations from software engineers and developers, according to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan political crowdfunding site Crowdpac.

Crowdpac's analysis of tech industry contributions reveals Sanders has out-raised his primary opponent by 2 to 1.

Joe Green, Mark Zuckerberg's former Harvard roommate and a Sanders campaign contributor, said he's drawn to the candidate because the Brooklyn-born populist talks about the issues he cares about: Wage inequality, social mobility and the eroding middle class.

But beyond his positions on issues, Green said he embraces Sanders's willingness to disrupt the Washington status quo and his directness.

"People in Silicon Valley — engineers — have strong b.s. detectors; they’re very matter-of-fact," said Green. "Bernie, because of who he is, appeals."


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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.