A 29-year-old progressive running for Congress thinks her honesty — and her OnlyFans — could help her win
- Alexandra Hunt is a 29-year-old running for Congress in Philadelphia.
- Hunt last month joined OnlyFans as part of her campaign for office.
On April 14, congressional candidate Alexandra Hunt became an OnlyFans creator.
The platform, which enables users to subscribe to creators for a monthly subscription fee ranging from $5 to $50, allows influencers, celebrities, and sex workers to make content and connect with their fans. But while almost anyone can set up an OnlyFans, the company's brand is more synonymous with explicit content than with political campaigns.
Hunt's decision to join OnlyFans is the latest move made by candidates attempting to score a viral moment online, counting on such moments to raise funds and hopefully drive voters to the polls on Election Day.
But whether Hunt's OnlyFans — or any of her social media work — will pay off is another question.
Hunt, 29, is hoping to unseat Pennsylvania Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat and longtime politician in Congress since 2016 and in state politics since the 80s. She identifies as a progressive, an alternative to Evans' more mainstream Democratic platform. She's recently called for President Joe Biden to cancel federal student loan debt, emphasized her support for labor unions, and called for less corporate involvement in politics.
She said she joined the platform after she received a comment online from someone who told her they looked forward to her joining OnlyFans after her "election loss."
"I get attacked day in and day out, and I think I've grown a little bit numb to it," Hunt told Insider. "But I really don't like to see other people attacked, especially other sex workers, because I know how hard it is for them.
"When someone said to me something like 'I can't wait for you to lose your race so that you make an OnlyFans,' I was like, no way that this is gonna be a loser thing," she added. "I can win and have an OnlyFans. I can be a candidate and have an OnlyFans. And so I made one."
Hunt's openness about her life has drawn attention and tabloid scrutiny
Hunt has also used all of her social media platforms to share more personal aspects of her life with followers and potential voters, including details of being a survivor of both sexual assault and domestic violence. She also has been open about her decision to have an abortion.
Her candidacy has made headlines in the New York Post and other tabloid media, which have often focused on her former work as a part-time stripper while in college. Right-wing outlets have also written about her candidacy. A Fox News article about her candidacy ran with the headline "Former stripper running for Congress says 'climate emergency' partially prompted decision to get an abortion."
"What I have learned in becoming a survivor is that bad things happen in the shadows," Hunt said of her decision to speak openly about her past. "And when people are reduced to living in the shadows, more harm is perpetuated in those shadows. And when you bring it forward, when you bring it into the light, even though it's hard."
Hunt, who was raised in Rochester, New York, graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Richmond in Virginia. She relocated to Philadelphia for grad school and earned master's degrees from Drexel and Temple Universities, and eventually began a career in public health.
On TikTok, she's courted more than 74,000 followers, and her videos in total have been liked 1.3 million times. More than 43,000 people follow Hunt on her Twitter account. But despite her online following, she said many haven't taken her candidacy seriously.
"It's really hard to run against an incumbent," Hunt, who started her campaign in 2020, told Insider. "It's really, really hard to run against stigma. And so you put both of those into a race and some days just feel absolutely impossible."
Her opponent has barely acknowledged her in the primary race, she said, and he's refused to debate her.
Evans' office did not return Insider's request for comment.
Extremely online candidates haven't always seen results at the ballot box
While Hunt's digital campaigning has gotten her media attention and fundraising, candidates with a big online presence have a mixed history of success. Several previous candidates at various levels of government who gained large followings online during their campaigns ultimately failed to resonate with voters.
Matt Little, a former state senator in Minnesota, lost his race for reelection in 2020 despite at the time becoming the country's most followed politician on TikTok. Joshua Collins, a self-described socialist who in 2020 ran to fill the seat now occupied by Rep. Marilyn Strickland, scored just 1.2% of the vote in a Washington primary after gaining thousands of followers across Twitter and TikTok during his campaign.
Other candidates, however, have had success with innovative digital strategies. Christina Haswood, who also utilized TikTok as part of her campaign in 2020, won her race for a seat in the Kansas state legislature, making the 26-year-old one of Kansas' youngest representatives.
Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff used TikTok to campaign during the 2021 runoff race that eventually saw him beat the incumbent former Sen. David Perdue, a Republican.
And it's not just young candidates, either. Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat in Congress since 1976 and in the Senate since 2013, also grew a massive "stan army" during his successful 2020 bid for reelection.
As the 2022 midterms near, some candidates, like Hunt, have doubled down on their digital strategies. Ohio Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan has scored just over 11,000 followers on TikTok during his race for US Senate. Alex Walker, a 31-year-old from Colorado, has campaigned against the incumbent GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert through viral posts across social media.
Hunt's decision to join OnlyFans fits well with the way she's branded herself as a candidate, said Ioana Literat, an associate professor of communications at Teachers College at Columbia University, who researches online political expression.
"As far as I know, there isn't research on these newer platforms and how success on these newer platforms translates to political success, but it's definitely very helpful in terms of branding and that's something that Alexandra seems to be really good at," Literat said.
Hunt knows there are limitations to digital campaigning. She said her campaign's primary efforts to get out the vote were more traditional methods, like door knocking.
"You cannot rely on social media to win an election," Hunt said. " I think that it's good to think of it as a way to fundraise. It's a good way to think of pushing ideas of your platform out there.
Hunt's OnlyFans doesn't feature any raunchy photos or videos, though some of her posts do poke fun at OnlyFans' reputation.
In an April 27 post soliciting tips on the platform, she wrote she was "HUNTing for a sugar somebody to help pay my student loans since POTUS keeps dilly dallying." Earlier in the day she posted asking her fans to check their DMs "to hear more about naked voting."
She told Insider she'd received a few messages on OnlyFans from people who told her they don't care about politics and just subscribed for "nude pictures."
In total, more than 3,600 people have subscribed to Hunt's OnlyFans since it was created. With subscriptions and tips, Hunt has raised more than $33,000 using the platform, according to screenshots from the campaign shared with Insider.
"This is like nothing we've seen before, but new things tend to create new streams of fundraising," said Eileen Pollet, the founder of the digital consulting firm Ravena Strategies. "They tend to change how we think about fundraising and where we see the audience that we can raise money from."
Pollet told Insider she didn't believe every digital campaign tactic, like the use of OnlyFans or selling NFTs, made a huge impact on election outcomes, but she said they were still worth trying to see what sticks in the long run.
"This kind of innovation is good, even if it doesn't work the first time around," she said.
Hunt noted that the OnlyFans account was technically considered a personal account (not a campaign account) because the platform did not provide the necessary tools to report subscribers as donors in line with FEC guidelines.
She said she planned to use the proceeds from OnlyFans to self-fund her campaign.
"What rich people do all the time — who run for office or hold office — is they self-fund their campaign," Hunt said. "While I am not a rich person, OnlyFans could decide to make me a rich person, and I could therefore self-fund my campaign."
OnlyFans, who has posted in support of Hunt's use of the platform, declined to comment for this story.
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