Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Reuters
Alexandra Hunt hopes to unseat establishment Democratic Representative Dwight Evans for Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district in Tuesday’s primary.
In many ways, Hunt is a traditional progressive candidate. She is well educated and has a background in public health. It also operates on key pillars of the progressive platform – like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
In other ways, she’s a bit unusual for someone running for Congress.
She has spoken publicly about her brief stint as a college stripper to make ends meet. And more recently, she started an OnlyFans, a site where some people make money by posting nude photos. According to Daily mailthe account itself only contains posts about Hunt’s campaign.
At times, Hunt’s unexpected background attracted negative publicity.
She said the sexist coverage by the New York Post and Fox News unfairly spotlighted her history as a stripper. It was the cover that she said eclipsed her other qualifications.
“My name has been cleared and I’m ‘the former stripper,'” she said.
In a chat with NPR, Hunt said she’s worked in public health for years and is more than just her background.
Jennifer Lawless, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, said Hunt’s campaign represents how far American society and politics have come.
“Ten or 20 years ago she wouldn’t even have been able to run” because of beliefs and societal pressure, Lawless said.
She added: “It’s progress in itself that someone with that experience feels confident and qualified to run for office. I think that demonstrates a degree of progress.”
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit
Hunt fights the trolls
Starting the OnlyFans account was an attempt to retaliate against an online troll who said he looked forward to losing Hunt and starting an OnlyFans, she said.
“So I created an OnlyFans to fend off this troll, but also to push back the stigma that this is something to be ashamed of, it would disqualify me as a candidate or as a politician,” he said. she stated. “Because it isn’t and it shouldn’t.”
She said the account is a way to make money and shows what many of her generation (millennials) have to do to make ends meet.
“Alexandra’s OnlyFans is her personal account and she talks about the campaign because it’s a part of her life. She shares her opinions, views, campaign updates, thoughts, memes or other things” , Hunt’s campaign said in an email. “She also shared photos and videos of herself. She also uploaded content pay-per-view, which helped her raise a significant amount of money.”
Eric Miller/Alexandra Hunt for Congressional Campaign
Lawless notes that Hunt cleverly used this as a way to connect with younger voters who are struggling to make money.
But she added: “The risk though…is that when you tell this story, there will be people who frame this story differently.”
And Hunt certainly experienced that.
the New York Post wrote, “Good luck nailing this one. Ex-New York stripper left behind her platform shoes for a political platform.”
Hunt faced increasing vitriol heading into the primary. She spoke publicly about having an abortion. According to her, this admission caused cyberattacks on their campaign site and email system. The attacks crippled their email access, she said.
“It almost crippled our ability to email and fundraise,” she said.
What the future holds
Lawless said the emphasis and criticism of Hunt’s background is unfortunately to be expected for any candidate, Lawless said. This goes for men and candidates.
“Once you run for public office, every choice you make is something you will be judged on,” she said.
Through her research, Lawless found that in previous congressional races over time, there really isn’t much explicitly sexist coverage, in general.
“When there is gender-specific coverage, and by that I mean attention to women’s appearances or women’s roles – and that would certainly fall into that category – women and men as a whole are equally likely to receive this type of coverage.”
In Hunt’s case, the extent to which his track record will actually deter local voters is likely minimal, Lawless said.
“The media has an incentive to cover what’s new, because what’s new is newsworthy, and that’s unusual,” Lawless said of Hunt’s story. But that attention goes a long way to helping candidates rise above the noise, get their name out there, and raise money.
Hunt did his best to lean into the trolling and criticism. Her campaign made tongue-in-cheek T-shirts that read “I may have danced for money but I’m not a corporate whore” and “Elect hoes”.
She also continues to use her experiences as a way to connect with voters.
“I think the campaign demonstrates that candidates can use gender in ways that could ultimately be beneficial, even when the circumstances surrounding that use may not have been what they anticipated,” Lawless said. .
Hunt said she heard people, once scared by their past, say they had been encouraged to run for office by her campaign. Win or lose, Hunt said she hopes her campaign makes a difference.
“I hope every day more and more people who have these pieces of their past choose to run and get involved,” she said.