• U.S.

The Republican: George W.’s Ambassador

3 minute read
Romesh Ratnesar

Gregory Slayton, CEO of ClickAction Inc., is also running George W. Bush’s Silicon Valley campaign, and he’s convened a group of 30 well-scrubbed executives for a breakfast at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Palo Alto. Slayton is decked out in a dark blue suit and a SILICON VALLEY BUSH 2000 baseball cap. When he laughs, he throws his head back and rolls his weight onto his heels. He greets guests by simultaneously shaking their hands, slapping their backs and bellowing, “Buddyhowareyagoodtoseeyouman!” Watching him, it’s easy to forget that it is not yet 8 in the morning.

Republicans go to work early. This breakfast meeting is intended to be “a brainstorming session,” to prepare for a Sept. 30 Bush fund raiser. “The goal for the event is substantial, but it’s doable,” Slayton says. “The Governor is really relying on us.” While it’s unusual to meet techies who can even name a presidential candidate, it’s rarer still to find people actively campaigning for a Republican. But the Valley’s new rich are realizing their political clout, and Bush has gone after their pocketbook issues, like tax cuts and tort reform. It’s working: though he has spent only two days in the Valley, Bush has raised more than $2 million there.

Slayton is still new to the game. Reared as a Democrat, he campaigned for Jimmy Carter in 1980 but lost interest in politics once he got an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1990. After saving a faltering software company, becoming a multimillionaire and finding God, he joined the G.O.P. In 1997 he met the Bushes. “I was always very enthusiastic about W.,” he says. “I loved what he’s done in Texas, and his dad is a great man. But I had no idea this was going to explode.”

Slayton shares Bush’s sunny, crowd-pleasing disposition. Enthusiasm comes easy to him. Midway through the breakfast, when Jack Oliver, Bush’s national finance director, calls to tell the group that the Governor won’t be phoning in as promised, Slayton reacts as if this is good news. “Thank you so much for calling in, Jack. It’s an honor to be part of the team. We’re rocking out here.” At the end of the event, he’s a whirlwind of handshakes and high-fives. He is halfway out the door when he buttonholes an attendee: “Kiddo! Do we have your wife on board for Silicon Valley Bush 2000?” The man nods. “Excellent!”


More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com