After graduating from Temple last year and witnessing the hardships many people faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alexandra Hunt decided to run for Congress.
“When the pandemic struck, I mean, we could have had preventative measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, we still can. But even with the lack of intervention, that was the final straw,” said Hunt, a clinical data manager at Adaptimmune.
In February 2020, Hunt, a 2020 master of public health alumna, launched her campaign for the 2022 United States House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district, running against the current incumbent, Dwight Evans. She plans to use her platform to advocate and provide more opportunities for marginalized people and, if she wins, will become the first openly former sex worker to hold a federal public office in the U.S, The Washington Post reported.
While working toward her master’s degree in 2019, Hunt grew interested in politics and began researching ways to combat systemic societal problems, like sexual and domestic violence, mass incarceration and gun violence.
Hunt grew frustrated watching politicians’ poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and used their lack-of-initiative to drive her campaign, she said.
“As I tried to look deeper and deeper into these societal systemic problems in a preventative manner, it kept coming back to legislation, and to activism and political activism,” Hunt said.
Jay Segal, a social and behavioral sciences professor and the faculty of record for Hunt’s master’s project, witnessed Hunt’s dedication to social justice both in and out of the classroom and encouraged her to run for office, he said.
“The issues for her were bigger than any obstacles she might face,” Segal said. “She won’t get blown over, nothing will throw her off her stride and she believes in her truth.”
Hunt announced her candidacy a few months after she graduated from Temple. While determined to run for office, she was faced with the difficult decision to embrace her past as a former sex worker or hide it, she said.
The strong relationships formed with those she worked with as a sex worker encouraged her to embrace her past when announcing her candidacy, Hunt said.
“If I did allow shame to rule, then it does take harm into this community,” Hunt said. “So if you’re not speaking up about the realities of different communities who are impacted by stigma and marginalization, then you’re part of the problem.”
Hunt’s campaign aims to advocate and create a platform for sex workers to confidently pursue different careers and be forthcoming about their experiences, end mass incarceration, implement a wealth tax and support a single-payer national healthcare program, according to her campaign website.
After learning about Hunt’s values and advocacy, Kayci Moodie, who previously worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2020 in Mississippi, New Hampshire and Tennessee, was determined to support her campaign and serve as its field director.
Moodie believes the City of Philadelphia and the U.S. need to be more progressive, which is why she is supporting someone who cares not only about Philadelphia, but will bring important values to Congress, like supporting those with non-traditional backgrounds, she said.
“Women’s sexuality in general, but especially for sex workers, is often used as a tool to lessen them and say that their intelligence or abilities are somehow less if they are sexual or have worked as a sex worker,” Moodie said. “The fact that she’s open about it, it makes it that nobody can use it against her.”
Both men and women perceive sexualized women as lacking in mental capacity and moral status and as less competent, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Hunt hopes her openness about her background in sex work can challenge the stigma in society by starting a momevement to end sexual violence and provide a platform for current and former sex workers to be heard and understood instead of ignored or degraded, she said.
“If we can unburden ourselves as a younger generation as a body of women who are unashamed and therefore not held down by those societal norms, I really think the sky is the limit,” Hunt said.