Laying down a marker in a state with a burgeoning tech community — and no shortage of political ambition — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul opened an Austin outpost Monday of his likely 2016 presidential campaign, hailing it as proof of his forward-thinking appeal to nontraditional Republican voters.
“People keep asking, ‘Why are you in Texas and not in New Hampshire?’” said Paul, R-Ky., nodding to the influx of his potential presidential rivals over the weekend into the Granite State. “Well, because I think if you want talent, you’ve got to go where the talent is.”
Housed in downtown startup incubator Capital Factory, the outpost for now will be staffed by Vincent Harris, Paul’s chief digital strategist; and Rachel Kania, senior field and technology strategist. Both are working for RANDPAC, the political action committee that has been laying the groundwork for Paul’s 2016 run, which he is expected to announce within a few weeks.
Paul, who was raised in Texas and attended Baylor University, touted his new office as an early investment in an area where his party lagged during the last presidential race. He said that the GOP did “too little too late” to counter President Barack Obama’s tech-friendly campaign and that the office signifies that “we plan on getting organized at an early date, having an office here and collecting the best minds.”
But he quickly cautioned that technology is “no magic cure” for a winning campaign. To be effective, he stressed, it has to be paired with a message that resonates, namely the limited-government gospel he’s been spreading across Austin amid its South by Southwest festival.
The office opening also enabled Paul to show off his ability to assemble top-flight political talent in a state where allegiances are mixed among several potential candidates. Harris and Kania both worked for Ted Cruz’s underdog but successful bid for the U.S. Senate, and their hires bookended another notable get by Paul, former Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri.
After meeting Paul on Monday, Jeff Cardenas and Joseph Santori — co-founders of the voter engagement app ThinkVoting — said they have no problem with Paul’s team setting up shop at Capital Factory, welcoming any effort to meld politics and technology, be it Democratic or Republican.
“Everyone is wanting to use technology to push the democratic process forward, and it’s a sign of the times,” Cardenas said, adding that technology seems to have revolutionized every area of life except the act of getting elected.
“Politics,” Santori said, “is the final frontier for technology.”