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Big Tech and innovation are not the top issues for candidates running for governor in this election

Candidates haven’t talked much about their agendas for innovation, unlike four years ago. Here is where the leading candidates stand.
In 39 states and territories, there will be gubernatorial elections in 2022. As candidates sprint toward November 8 election day, they have mostly honed their themes through campaigning.


However, one topic—that of developing technology, Big Tech firms, and even innovation in general—seems to have been left out of the conversation.

It’s a discussion that was much more prominent four years ago, when tech innovation and the issue of how much influence Big Tech should have were on everyone’s minds. Elizabeth Warren established the case for dismantling Big Tech in 2019, and other state legislators worked to replace innovation. In Ohio, Mike DeWine established “InnovateOhio,” which supported teachers’ instruction in computer science and provided funding for coding bootcamps. Even while think tanks issued op-eds debating whether the United States or China was succeeding in the development of artificial intelligence, Gretchen Whitmer praised Michigan for its automotive ingenuity. Additionally, Janet Mills created the first Office of Innovation and the Future in Maine because, according to her at the time, “we know that someday, robots, drones, driverless cars, broadband, and 3-D printing will dramatically alter the way Maine people live, study, and work.”

The epidemic then broke out. Issues of social and economic justice were amplified during those turbulent times, dividing the nation to extremes on either side of the political spectrum. Big Tech, however, became almost universally despised as its risks came into sharper focus and its size increased, creating a rare point of agreement between the political left and right and making it a considerably less viable topic for candidates to debate. It’s not surprising that it mostly escaped notice throughout this election. Instead, the more viscerally stirring topics of gun control—as mass shootings are on the rise—abortion and LGBTQ rights—which are in jeopardy—as well as the pervasive struggle with growing living expenses amid pandemic- and war-wrought inflation—have dominated this cycle.

Even while that has received the most of the attention in debates, the topic of technology is still crucial because, like it or not, Big Tech drives economic growth in many countries. Meanwhile, cutting-edge technologies like Web3 and AI may very well bring about the economic revival that some communities sorely need. Additionally, the presence of these institutions helps foster better education for kids, particularly since that many of them have fallen behind in math and science due to the pandemic’s virtual education system.

Fast Company contacted the existing governors of the five states with the highest concentration of tech companies to ask about their plans for technological innovation, but just one responded. Here is where the candidates—and their main rivals—stand in light of their prior statements and track records:

Democrat Gavin Newsom With his first tenure as governor of the Golden State coming to an end, Newsom has the unenviable task of taming Silicon Valley’s wild west. As late as 2021, Newsom appeared to be friendly with major internet firms. According to reports, he received a staggering $3 million from Netflix founder Reed Hastings as part of his campaign to win the recall election last year.


However, things appeared to change in 2022 as more states tightened their regulations of Big Tech. Two bills that Big Tech had fought to repeal, enforcing regulations on transparency and children’s privacy, made it into law in September, making websites safer for youngsters. At the time, Newsom declared, “California will not watch as social media is weaponized to propagate hate and misinformation that threatens our neighborhoods and fundamental principles as a society.” But the top issues on his campaign website do not include technology.

In terms of Web3 technology, Newsom has been slow to set firm boundaries. With the help of his executive order in May, California became the first state to explore a regulatory framework for blockchain development. This order looked at the advantages and risks of Web3, including its usage in government coding. He surprised cryptocurrency supporters in September, though, by vetoing a bill that would have set restrictions for such a framework, claiming that a “more flexible approach” was required.

Brian Dahle (R): In the historically liberal state of California, Dahle, Newsom’s main rival, has little chance of succeeding. Before becoming a U.S. senator, Dahle worked as a farmer, lumberjack, hydroelectric plant worker, and gold miner since he couldn’t afford college. Dahle’s longshot campaign has focused less on tech policies and more on concerns like homelessness, inflation, and crime and gun violence, reflecting the shift in popular sentiment this election year.

Rep. Ron DeSantis: The well-known governor of Florida is known for his attacks against Big Tech, saying it has turned into “like Big Brother.” After President Trump banned conservative politicians from using Twitter, he signed a contentious bill in 2021 that would fine Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon for deplatforming candidates. The measure was intended to safeguard conservative politicians.

A federal appeals court subsequently halted the law, ruling that it would infringe on the First Amendment rights of social media corporations to control what is displayed on their platforms. (When Fast Company inquired about additional information, a DeSantis staff member sent them to his online “playbook,” which named Big Tech as one of the “special interests” he opposed.) Despite this, DeSantis has embraced the nascent cryptocurrency sector, for which Miami has emerged as a mecca due to the influx of firms like FTX and Blockchain.com (the city also hosts the largest Bitcoin conference in the world). DeSantis seemed eager to see cryptocurrency prosper: In March, he stated that his government was trying to enable firms to pay taxes in cryptocurrencies. In May, he signed a measure to deregulate “virtual currencies.”

Charlie Crist (D): In contrast, DeSantis’ prominence has caused Crist’s candidacy to falter. The former congressman’s major platform themes do not center on Big Tech, but rather on abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, reducing gun violence and improving the judicial system, as well as reforming the housing market and promoting clean energy and water.

Robert Kemp (R): The center of Atlanta has had an explosion of technology over the past several years, all under Kemp’s leadership, including a $75 million Microsoft office, a $40 million Cisco hub, and a vast new Google complex that has staked its claim adjacent to some of the greatest engineering schools in the country. Rivian, a manufacturer of electric vehicles, committed $5 billion in a massive manufacturing facility in Atlanta late last year. While Kemp himself hasn’t said much about Big Tech, the state’s own business appears to be seeing a revival in innovation.

Stacey Abrams (D) is an advocate for innovation who cofounded a fintech business that received up to $40 million in 2021. Abrams is a former attorney, congressional representative, and current voting rights activist. Similar to other opponents, she has used more divisive themes to fight Kemp, including Georgia’s voting suppression and abortion rights, as well as Kemp’s relaxation of gun regulations and its impact on crime.

D. Kathy Hochul: Hochul, a former lieutenant governor who was appointed governor after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation was forced by his fall from grace, hasn’t had much opportunity to take a position on Big Tech. Hochul, however, criticized Big Tech in May after a horrific shooting at a Buffalo Tops supermarket because it allowed hateful and violent emotions to spread on its platforms. The shooting was classified as a hate crime, and in an effort to gain attention, its offender live-streamed the incident on Twitch. Although the stream was immediately interrupted, clips of it continued to circulate on other platforms.

Hochul said of the IT firms, “I want them to look me in the eye and tell me they’re doing everything they can. They must be held accountable for what is posted there and take it down as soon as something this ominous appears, according to their moral, ethical, and legal obligations.

Hochul, meanwhile, has long backed initiatives to turn Albany into a high-tech industrial corridor, a rebirth of the heyday of upstate New York’s invention boom with Eastman-Kodak and IBM. The project, which had been promised since the early 1990s, was abandoned in 2018 when its architect was found guilty of engaging in bid-rigging. The global shortage of semiconductor chips may now have given Albany’s idea of a cutting-edge technological hub new life. In order to establish a network of chip manufacturers in Syracuse over the following two decades, Micron announced a record $100 billion investment in October. This investment included $6 billion in government subsidies. The agreement, one of the biggest private investments ever for New York, is only surpassed by a $100 billion check that Intel signed in January to fund the construction of chip factories in Ohio.

R. Lee Zeldin Hochul is finding herself in a closer-than-expected fight with Zeldin, a pro-gun, pro-Trump Republican, despite New York’s liberal leanings. A congressional congressman named Zeldin wrote on Facebook days after the January Capitol Hill uprising that “many Big Tech corporations are seeking to silence all Americans they don’t agree with.” On his campaign website, under the heading “Defending Your Freedom,” he makes a brief reference of “taking on Big Tech.” But the main topics of Hochul and Zeldin’s sole discussion to date—which was fraught with argument—were rising crime rates and abortion rights.

Rep. Greg Abbott: Abbott, who is running for re-election, has been torn between supporting his party’s position against censorship of Big Tech and courting Big Tech executives who have been gradually moving their headquarters from Silicon Valley to busy Texas hubs like Austin and Houston. While Abbott enacted a law similar to Florida’s last year prohibiting social media deplatforming and went on a media tour to promote it, he has also made friends with several tech behemoths who were considering moving to Texas to join companies like Tesla, Oracle, and Hewlett-Packard. According to some sources, Abbott gave tax benefits to major tech firms like Apple and Google and collected thousands of dollars in donations for his campaign. Apple will be granted a 15-year tax break for a $1 billion campus that it has promised to construct outside of Austin.

Crypto miners who are fleeing persecution in parts of China have also flocked to other coal-, oil-, and gas-rich regions, including Texas, to fuel their businesses. Abbott has praised the mining industry for bringing electrical demand, which Abbott thinks could encourage power providers to fix their shaky infrastructure in the state. Texas, which leads the country in both carbon-powered energy and renewable solar and wind power, has welcomed the miners. Many skeptics counter that the increasing demand will just lead to additional problems. A severe snowstorm’s impact on power disruptions resulted in several hundred fatalities last winter.

Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat:

O’Rourke, a prospective U.S. representative and former hard rock band bassist, has given Abbott a run for his money, making the Texas governor’s campaign the most costly in history at $220 million and counting. O’Rourke claimed that Big Tech needed regulation, not a breakup, during his presidential campaign in 2019. Despite Abbott’s attempts, O’Rourke allegedly received more campaign funding from tech workers. The governor’s polarizing attitude on topics like abortion and LGBTQ rights has alienated a significant portion of the liberal base that the Big Tech migration brought to the state. He has faced Abbott’s greatest battle on the front of the culture war.

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