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Silicon Valley Lukewarm on Presidential Candidates

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are raising less money in the tech sector nationwide than President Barack Obama four years ago. In Silicon Valley, a hub for technology and innovation, the candidates' reception has been lukewarm among many professionals.

“Silicon Valley looks at both candidates and I think there are qualms regarding both of them,” said Trevor Traina, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based IfOnly, an on-line marketplace where people can buy experiences.

“You have Hillary Clinton who really is someone whose background is in finance who was close with Wall Street, and you have Donald Trump whose background is in real estate and he’s sort of close with the developers and builders.” Traina continued, “You have two candidates who don’t necessarily speak the language of Silicon Valley.”

“Neither of the two main candidates really speak to me,” said Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper.

Matt Mahan, co-founder of civic and political engagement website Brigade, said many people are voting based on who is their least favorite candidate.

“This is an election cycle in which we’re seeing a lot of what might be called negative turnout. People turning out [to vote] because they’re frustrated with their options. They strongly dislike one of the nominees and want to make sure that that nominee doesn’t become president,” said Mahan. “With historically high negative ratings for the two mainstream candidates, I think that many voters' motivation for turning out [to vote] is to just to ensure that the other candidate doesn’t win.”

The negative sentiment may be reflective of how much money each candidate has raised in the tech sector nationwide, when compared to the last presidential race four years ago. According to Crowdpac, in 2012, Barack Obama raised about $10 million and Mitt Romney raised around $3 million. So far, Clinton has raised $6.1 million and Trump only $225,000. Clinton has outraised Trump in the overall tech sector and is ahead of him in the Bay Area, which includes Silicon Valley. In this region, Clinton has raised $43 million and Trump has only raised about $700,000.

Harmeet Dhillon, the RNC national committeewoman from California, said she is not surprised because Trump is not the usual politician.

FILE - Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and technology commentator Kara Swisher high-five during a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women.

FILE - Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and technology commentator Kara Swisher high-five during a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women.

“The reason why he (Trump) hasn’t raised more money compared to Clinton is he didn’t ask for it. Very simple and it was a strategy. He was running a different kind of campaign in the primary. He was getting billions of dollars of earned media from his organic activities. He didn’t have to pay to play. And even in this stage of the election, he doesn’t have to pay to play on the media side.”

Kevin Krick, Bay Area regional vice chair for the California Republican Party, said there is still time for people to contribute.

“We see historically that as the race starts to tighten, the days come down to the final count, people do pony up and get involved that way to make those donations to try to push the candidate over the edge to the finish line,” said Krick.

Crowdpac’s Gisel Kordestani said there are Silicon Valley tech professionals who’ve supported other Republican candidates earlier in this race.

“We saw quite some significant donors giving money to candidates like Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and also to Jeb Bush, but just not to Trump. I don’t think he’s resonating well with the tech business community that’s moderately conservative.”

Traina had held a fundraiser for presidential candidate Jeb Bush and donated to his campaign when he was still in the race.

“I think the primary advantage of donating to these people is you tend to get a few minutes of their time and you can introduce to them the topics that you think are important and try and plant a bug in their ear. The other reason I think why people give is just they’re looking to see an outcome. They’re hoping someone wins or doesn’t win,” Traina said.

Traina has met both Clinton and Trump. He hasn’t decided whom he will vote for. He and others in the Silicon Valley tech sector said the candidates and the next president need to pay attention to the region.

“The big companies are now really, really big. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook. These are some of the biggest corporations in the world now. That’s new for Silicon Valley,” said Traina.

“I think it’s well worth it to really understand what’s going on in Silicon Valley and that doesn’t mean just coming over to the ATM and picking up money and spreading it around the country. It means coming really to understand how technology has transformed so many industries, and government is the next one,” Draper said.

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