Alexandra Hunt never planned to run for Congress.
During a late–July shift at a food distribution site last year, Hunt wiped sweat from her brow and turned to look at the dozens of community members lined up outside of the center. Tracing the line with her gaze, her stomach sank. It felt endless, wrapping around the next block and out of sight.
As summer 2020 came to a close, Hunt spent part of her free time participating in community aid efforts to combat the spread of COVID–19, braving sweltering heat to distribute food and COVID–19 tests to Philadelphians in need. Those few months were hard. The Philadelphia community saw a large peak in COVID–19 cases in April, with the number of new cases per day climbing above 600. The impact fell squarely on low–income, minority neighborhoods, people experiencing homelessness, and prison communities.
Hunt witnessed the fallout firsthand, as a volunteer on the frontlines. One weekend, she administered COVID–19 testing; the next, she helped high schoolers collect menstrual products for their classmates; the week after, she worked at a food distribution site.
Staring down the hardened, masked faces of a ravaged neighborhood, Hunt decided to run for Congress. It wasn’t a decision motivated by self–importance, but a desperate, earnest desire to serve her community.
“I was looking at [the line], and I just had this thought of, ‘They're not coming to help us,’” Hunt says. “And my next thought was, ‘What am I waiting for?’”
Alexandra Hunt is an unabashed 28–year–old progressive from a working–class background running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 3rd District, which includes West Philly, parts of North Philly, and most of Center City. Raised in Rochester, N.Y., Hunt moved to Philadelphia after college to get her master’s degree in interdisciplinary health sciences—and she’s been here ever since. When not on the campaign trail, Hunt works as a public health researcher, community organizer, and girls’ soccer coach. She’s striving to unseat moderate Democrat and two–term incumbent Rep. Dwight Evans in the Democratic primary next spring. Her candidacy shouldn’t be controversial, but, given the older, majority–male makeup of Congress, it’s definitely out of the ordinary.
Hunt's age alone is an anomaly. The average age of members of the United States House of Representatives is nearly 58 years old, with Democrats lagging behind Republicans for the most millennial members. Thanks to policies made by their predecessors, Gen Z and millennials are inheriting the housing crisis, student debt, a lack of health care, and unabating unemployment.
“Young people are very frustrated with how little they are represented and how little they've been thought of as the next generation inheriting this world,” Hunt says. “Growing up, we were not viewed as sacred. We were kind of neglected and put as an afterthought.”
The Hunt campaign practices what it preaches. To ensure their voices are heard, the campaign houses a youth advisory committee also known as Youth for Alexandra, which helps to educate young voters on the upcoming election, Hunt’s platform, and progressivism in general.
One of the group’s co–founders is Anna Doyle, a West Philly native and junior studying political science at Temple University. Doyle began volunteering for the campaign’s research team after seeing Hunt’s videos on TikTok. Realizing what a large impact youth had on the campaign, Anna pitched the idea of forming a youth advisory committee for Hunt based on programming from a previous internship.
“I was like, ‘[Hunt] is really awesome.’ I loved to see someone so progressive running in my district, and I wanted to help out,” Anna says. “[My idea] was met with a lot of enthusiasm from the campaign.”
Hunt’s TikTok is a large part of what draws young people to her campaign, and part of what differentiates her from her opponents. On TikTok, Hunt speaks candidly about past experiences that are often taboo in politics, like the abortion she had when she was a teenager and her time as a stripper during college.
To date, Hunt has garnered over 35,000 followers and over 500,000 likes on the platform. Her success allows Anna to rope high school students from across Philadelphia into the youth arm of the campaign.
“All ideas are totally welcome,” Anna says. “It's a really great spot to get your foot in the door, if you want to do campaigns or just learn more about politics.”
While her youth focus sets her apart from many congressional candidates, Hunt’s leftist policy positions and unpretentious past also make her an outlier. While progressives continue to push left–wing policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, their work is often held hostage by moderate Democrats in the House and swing votes in the Senate. Furthermore, a large percentage of Congress are millionaires, putting them wildly out of touch with working–class Americans, whose minimum–wage salary can’t pay rent for a two–bedroom apartment in any state in the country.
In the fray of wealthy moderates ruling with an iron fist, Hunt is a breath of fresh air.
“I'm the daughter of two teachers, and I think I've always seen politicians as greedy and self–interested,” Hunt says. “My interest is in having the people, and the needs of the people, actually represented in our government—and not just represented, but having legislation work to meet those needs.”
And she’s not alone. Hunt joins a wave of young progressives running to unseat moderate Democrat incumbents. Among this group are members of “The Squad,” which include Reps. Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. As a woman running for office, Hunt is familiar with the level of harassment and character assault that representatives like Bush and Ocasio–Cortez endure.
In a TikTok she shared in August, Hunt recalls the comments she’s received on the campaign trail, which include being told that she looks “anorexic” or “dresses like a hooker.” It makes elected progressive women’s advocacy all the more impressive and vital. “I've experienced a sliver of that [harassment], and it's absurd,” she says.
Hunt doesn’t have one or two campaign priorities. Rather, she focuses on a slate of interconnected issues. First on the docket: tackling the climate emergency. In the 1900s, Philadelphia averaged four days a year with temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. By 2100, that number could be as high as 52 days a year—almost the entire summer. Hunt is a firm believer that climate change is intrinsically linked to issues of public health and safety.
Another issue close to her heart? Health care. On top of her graduate degree from Drexel, Hunt also holds a Master of Public Health from Temple University. She also works as a public health researcher, which shapes her perspective on the current state of health care “that benefits from people being sick, and from people suffering and needing care.”
Hunt also emphasizes public education, housing, and criminal justice reform. She notes that she can’t consider just one issue a “priority” when she knows her work in certain areas is impacted by challenges in the others.
These bold policy ideas were what drew Mason Lumer (C ’24) to Hunt’s campaign. Mason grew up just outside of Philadelphia, and he is now a student at Penn. This past spring, he worked as a digital media intern on Hunt’s campaign, after responding to a posting in the Penn Democrats Facebook group. Mason recalls that Hunt’s campaign “really resonated” with him. He believes that her progressive stance is what West Philadelphians need.
Mason monitored media coverage on topics close to Hunt’s heart, such as climate change, health care, and sex work. Through covering these topics, he realized the importance of reading the news, as well as the importance of bringing young people into the fold of politics as soon as possible.
“In this campaign, she's hitting all the points that our generation, and future generations, really care about,” Mason says. “It's helpful not just for the youth voters, but also for these youth voters to promote it to their families, to their parents, to their grandparents, and really get the word out.”
Mason is concerned with both youth issues and issues that impact the West Philly community, especially pertaining to climate change. In his 20 years living both in and out of the city, he says he’s never gotten so many natural disaster alerts in one week. Mason’s support for Hunt comes from witnessing his community deteriorate due to climate change and a failing health care system.
Ultimately, what Hunt’s platform comes down to is this: Philadelphians deserve broad reform in every area possible—from housing, to criminal justice reform, to gun violence, to public health—and the current administration just isn’t cutting it.
“The Biden administration is putting little drops in the bucket of infrastructure and climate legislation, but we don't have time to wait,” Hunt says. “Because we've just really stripped our world of resources, we need to go into overhaul of addressing and funding these social programs.”
This outlook manifests itself in Hunt’s campaign. Hunt supports ending mass incarceration, a steep progressive tax, a New Deal for Education, demilitarizing the police, and other progressive policies across the board.
She considers her opponent a moderate Democrat who compromises on imperative legislation. During Evans’ last campaign for re–election, he appeared to be a huge proponent of Medicare for All, even cosponsoring a previous version of the bill. However, he failed to support the bill when it came to the floor, citing technicalities about the timeline. Hunt argues that Evans no longer has a sense of urgency, and Philadelphians don’t have time to waste.
“[The fact] that our government isn't showing up to fight for the people, no matter Republican or Democrat, is a big part of why we're running,” Hunt says.
Reflecting on the campaign’s progress thus far, Hunt is inspired by her grassroots support and powerful community organizing partners. The difficult tasks—making endless fundraising calls to obscure family members and taking sexist abuse from critics of the campaign—are offset by rewarding day–to–day interactions with Philadelphia residents.
“[I’ve gotten] to meet so many people in the district who have their own stories, and who talk about the ways that they are fighting for change,” Hunt says. “I'm so proud to have gotten the chance to know them, to speak with them, to hear their stories, and to carry that with me on this campaign trail.”
While some community members view her campaign as brave, Hunt believes that her values are the bare minimum. A representative by the people, for the people, is a tale as old as time, but it’s rare in today’s polarized political climate—even in a city like Philadelphia, which prides itself on electing diverse representatives.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how little we expect our politicians to give,” Hunt says. “I think there should be a standard. You should love your community. You should love the people in it.”