University of Richmond alum Alexandra Hunt, ‘14, is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s third district in 2022.
During her time at UR, Hunt was a first responder for UR's Emergency Medical Services and president of the women's club soccer team. In order to support herself financially, she was also a stripper.
If elected, Hunt would be the first known former stripper to hold a federal public office in the U.S.
"It was very hard," Hunt said regarding balancing her time between being a student and a stripper. "[I felt] so exposed in the system and also exposed physically. Yes, I was making a lot of money, but there was nothing there that would keep me safe.
"I didn't want the school to know. I didn't want my friends and family to know. I kept it very quiet."
A decade later, Hunt is much more vocal about that period in her life, and she uses her TikTok account, which has over 45,000 followers, to post about her experience as a former stripper and the importance of protecting sex workers.
She also uses the social media platform to discuss other policy issues she aims to address, including healthcare and foreign policy.
"I think that social media is a great digital organizing tool," Hunt said. "It has been very useful for us. It's brought in media attention. It's brought in volunteers. It's brought in some fundraising, and it's brought in name recognition, which, when you're an insurgent campaign running against a deeply entrenched incumbent, that is so valuable.
"So, social media plays a very big role in that, and it can really help little campaigns that don't have the funding or resources to be on TV or billboards."
Women currently make up 27% of all members of Congress, the highest percentage in U.S. history. Despite this progress, there's still a barrier for women in politics, Hunt said.
"It comes up in meetings, in interactions. There is just this mentality or stigma that women can't be as intelligent; women can't be as hard-working," she said. "I find myself constantly being spoken over, interrupted by someone who might not have that same experience in an area or have done the research where I might know where I'm coming from. And that is sexism, and that happens to candidates all over the country."
Hunt, 28, is much younger than her 67-year-old opponent, incumbent Dwight Evans. She views her age as an asset, and she thinks that, in general, more young people should run for political office, she said.
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"This is [a] young people's world," she said. "We're inheriting this, and as soon as we are considered adults, we should be in charge of directing where it's going to go.
"Someone said to me, 'You have this youthful impatience,' and I do think it contributes to my sense of urgency, because this is our world -- this is [a] young people's world -- and we're not driving the ship."
Though Hunt has not kept up much with UR since she graduated, she heard about the Black Student Coalition forming on campus in spring 2021, she said and pointed to it as an example of ways young people can mobilize to promote progressive change.
"I think a very important tie to make is that, you know, on campus, it's the students; it's the young people driving the change that they need to feel welcome and comfortable and safe on campus, and that they're doing that as a collective," she said. "That's very similar to what we're trying to do in PA-03.
"Even if it's not on campus, I'm young, running for office and trying to change things for the better for all of us. ... From hearing about what's been happening on campus and with the Black Student Coalition, I've just been very pleased that there seems to be a break in that mentality of you know, ‘well, it doesn't affect my life, so why should I care?'"
Hunt said that as a student at UR, she had felt like an outsider because of her socioeconomic status.
"I'm going to be very frank. I did not have the best experience at UR," Hunt said. "There were not many students from my background. There were a lot of people who came from wealthier families, and that was something while on campus, I really felt the entire time like I didn't fully belong there."
Though Hunt did not enjoy all aspects of her time at UR, she does attribute an early interest in politics and activism to a first-year seminar class she took at the university, which centered around public policy.
In the class, students were tasked with researching healthcare in different countries and arguing which one had the best system, she said.
"I go back to that course a lot, and I think that that did play a role in my run for office," she said.
Hunt, a public health researcher and advocate, said the government's inefficiency during the pandemic was what ultimately pushed her to run for office.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me," she said. "I got a degree in psychology and am very healthcare and medically focused, and everything just kept coming back to politics.
"We don't have healthcare for every single person in this country. Why the hell is that? And, you know, people aren't getting living wages. Why the hell is that? I kept coming back to our legislation is not matching the needs of the people."
Even while campaigning, Hunt struggles to identify with the label of politician and considers herself as more of an activist, she said.
“I think that with some people, they gravitate toward politics because of interest, and they're drawn to the power of politics, and then other people gravitate toward politics because they have no other choice––and I think that is how I got into this role."
Contact managing editor Meredith Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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