This wasn’t the forward, decisive vision of a Washington operative. A one-time freelance writer, (whose work has appeared in the Travel section of The New York Times), Mr. Todras-Whitehill’s political experience was minimal. He had volunteered during John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and traveled to northeastern Ohio in 2008, where he briefly ran a county “get-out-the-vote” operation for Barack Obama.
But the previous day’s election results made getting involved feel more urgent, and Mr. Todras-Whitehill began looking for his nearest swing district. With some effort he found it. He then wondered why he had to do that much work. Where was the app?
And that was the start. Mr. Todras-Whitehill reached out to a high school friend from his Upper West Side childhood, Joshua Krafchin, an entrepreneur, and his wife Miriam Stone, a branding strategist, both now living in the Bay Area. The couple quickly signed on.
They thought about potential names, like “Adopt-a-District” and “Make America Blue Again” before settling on “Swing Left.”
“It sounded like a movement,” Mr. Todras-Whitehill said. “At that moment in time, we needed more than just a tool. We needed a movement.”
Others felt the same. With a cadre of a dozen friends from technology, marketing and media, they developed a website to fill a need they saw lacking: An easy apparatus to let people know which nearby congressional seats could possibly change from red to blue, and potential opportunities to make that happen.
For instance, let’s say you type in 80203, a ZIP code in the reliably blue enclave of Denver, Colo. What pops up is a map of the neighboring 6th District, anchored by Aurora, currently held by the Republican congressman Mike Coffman, along with the information that while Mr. Coffman “won this district by only 31,254 votes (8.3 percent)” in 2016, it was also carried by Hillary Clinton that year and thus should be in play for 2018. (Says the site: “Democrat Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger and tireless advocate for veterans, can flip this critical seat!”)