Sanders Wins in California, But Can He Count on Silicon Valley's Support?

Sanders won vote totals in California, but that doesn't mean Silicon Valley will line up behind his candidacy going forward.
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Two clear frontrunners for the Democratic nomination emerged out of Super Tuesday: Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden swept the southern states, as well as Massachusetts and Minnesota, while Sanders won vote totals in Colorado, Utah and Vermont. The state with the largest delegate haul, California, went to Sanders, where he won an estimated 33% of votes compared to 24% for Biden, according to The New York Times.

Sanders had been polling well in California for some time. And his win in the deep-blue state win also reflected his status as the favored candidate of Silicon Valley employees, counterintuitive as that may seem.

“Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar had some Silicon Valley funders. But even if those funders now back Joe Biden, based on the donations to date, Bernie is clearly still Silicon Valley’s preferred candidate,” said Amy Jo Miller of Goods Unite Us, a nonprofit that analyzes campaign donations.

Based on total dollar donations, Sanders has enjoyed the strongest support among rank-and-file employees of major tech firms, despite Sanders’ critiques of Big Tech. The reason for that likely boils down to simple demographics. Silicon Valley sits at the intersection of two groups favorable to Bernie: young people and the very liberal.

Anecdotally, however, some Silicon Valley leaders seem to prefer a more moderate option. And with Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar out of the race, the two remaining options in that lane are Biden and Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg is reportedly reevaluating his campaign after a lackluster Super Tuesday performance.

“Biden’s numbers have changed fast. So [it's] interesting to see that the Dem establishment is showing a sign of life -- it’s better than what happened in 2016 with Trump and the GOP establishment,” said George Arison, founder of the car sales platform Shift and an active Silicon Valley political donor. “My guess is a lot of people are going to give money to Biden. The momentum has been very positive for him.”

On Twitter on Tuesday, a handful of other industry leaders announced their support for another candidate: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a prominent critic of Big Tech who has also called for a new tax on the ultra-wealthy. On Tuesday, however, Warren's results were underwhelming, with her campaign failing to capture a single state and even coming in third place in her home state of Massachusetts behind Biden and Sanders. 

Judging by their Twitter posts on Tuesday, Warren voters included Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, Google Ventures partner Rick Klau, and venture capitalist Hunter Walk, who wrote that he “voted for Warren and donated to Biden.”