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Republicans hire Facebook engineer to challenge Democrats' social, data lead

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Andy Barkett
Andy Barkett

President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party get social media and they get data. Democrats used the two, and other grassroots tech tools, to help win the presidency in 2008 and in 2012. And so far, Republicans are quite the opposite when it comes to tech. The Republican National Committee has proven itself inept in reaching younger, tech savvy voters, and it knows this. Which is why on Wednesday, the RNC announced that its hired engineer Andy Barkett away from Facebook to spearhead a tech turnaround.

Barkett will serve as the GOP's first chief technology officer, with an eye on helping Republicans use the web to connect with voters as major national elections are just months away. "It's essential that the Republican Party has the resources to drive voter turnout as we look toward the elections of 2014, 2016, and beyond," Barkett said in a statement issued through the RNC. "Silicon Valley welcomes the party's efforts to be more creative and innovative, and I look forward to helping the party accomplish these goals." Altogether, Barkett has more than a decade's worth of experience working in the tech world.

Barkett is a Google and Facebook alum

In 2011, the engineer joined Facebook where he "was in charge of dozens of engineers on six production engineering teams responsible for thousands of servers and scaling systems in mobile infrastructure, messaging, advertisements, newsfeeds, platforms, and payments," the RNC said. According to his Facebook page, Barkett worked for Google between 2006 and 2008 as a technical program manager. In between Google and Facebook, he completed an MBA at UC Davis and worked as a consultant for the IT services firm Taos Mountain. He also spent a couple years at Livescribe, serving as an engineering director, and he co-founded Greenlight Apparel, an organic clothing company.

While Barkett is the Republican's first official CTO, he surely won't be the last tech hire for the political party. After Mitt Romney's decisive presidential loss to Barack Obama last The GOP wants to build election-winning tech tools year, the Republicans commissioned a study on what went right and wrong. The result of that study was the Growth & Opportunity Project report which, as the Huffington Post pointed out, called for the creation of a party CTO and a team of digitally focused officers below them. The CTO "should identify, recruit, and hire a working group of data scientists, tech, and digital advocates to build a structure that can eventually be deployed during the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race to provide a 21st-century digital, data, and tech operation for our candidates," the Republican's report said. Looks like Barkett's got some work to do.