These former Clinton staffers are looking to disrupt local politics with their new startup
2024-07-18 06:03:19

As a handful of Hillary Clinton's Ohio campaign staffers watched the results come in on election night, they had the same thought as many other Americans: Time for a drink.

The group made their way to the Local Cantina in Columbus for what was supposed to be a final goodbye between people who had spent 18 hours a day together for the past several months.

Instead, they left the bar with a new startup—Flippable, an organization focused on identifying local political positions that could turn from Republican to Democratic, and figuring out how to provide the resources to flip them.

"We started really brainstorming how could we turn this into a tool or a platform on November 9th," said Catherine Vaughan, co-founder of Flippable. "We're trying to really capture the energy and the tension and the national fervor around this issue right now."

It's a simple but elusive combination that Flippable hopes to achieve: information, and action. And with Democrats reeling from the election, Vaughan and her like-minded teammates weren't about to wait for the fervor to die down. The startup is by Democrats, for Democrats, with a focus on the growing tide of voter suppression laws.

Still in its infancy, the organization is working on finding funding, but has already accrued a small following thanks to its email newsletter, which runs down the different ways its readers can begin making an impact, such as a petition to get Facebook to extend its election notification features.

Vaughan is one of six former Clinton staffers that have teamed up on Flippable. She said that the eventual goal is to make it easy for people to find races that matter, and then take action.

"State legislatures aren't very sexy," she said. "People often don't know who represents them."

It's a problem Flippable co-founder Chris Walsh has been thinking about for a while. After working on various local campaigns, he helped develop's "Change Politics," an attempt at providing a tech-based solution to informing voters.

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That experience showed him just how little the average person knows about their state representatives, despite the massive impact those politicians tend to have on their life.

"That's when it became clear how little people knew about their state legislator, which is striking because these people have such a heavy impact on our lives," Walsh said. "The president is not going to fix your pot holes, but your state senator does."

That impact goes both ways, Walsh added.

State legislatures in numerous states have passed voter suppression laws that Democrats have alleged unfairly target voters that tend to lean left. That includes important swing states like Wisconsin, where Clinton lost by a margin of 0.7 percent.

Mashable ImageCredit: ACLU

Flippable's first major undertaking will be figuring out just how to identify which state legislature races are, well, flippable and could make a difference. The organization hopes to build a semi-automated system that can find important seats, and highlight them.

Joseph Bandera-Duplantier, an engineer working on the project, said he envisions a "FiveThirtyEight-style" map which lets users interact with different regions across the country.

"You'll be able to drill down into each state and see which individuals races are the most Flippable and then take action," he added.

There's any number of politics-focused startups, many of which are partisan like Flippable. Most focus on fundraising, information or data analysis. Few focus on targeting particular races in an effort to bring about a power shift.

Flippable already has some races in mind. Virginia is one of the bright spots for Democrats, having turned blue after a long run as a solidly Republican state. Walsh pointed to it as a chance for Flippable to make a difference.

"That's just an area where I really think we're going to have to think, 'How do we secure these seats? How do we secure Virginia's legislatures?" Walsh said.

Not that Flippable thinks it can turn every race, but that's not the point.

"That doesn't necessarily mean we're going to flip the entire house of delegates in one cycle," Walsh said. "It's going to have to serve as a proof of concept, proof that we can engage a community."