Huey Rey Fischer may only be 23 years old, but he has every intention of becoming the next state representative in Texas’ District 49, which includes the University of Texas at Austin.
A long-time incumbent recently vacated the seat, and Fischer, a queer, vegetarian, Latino “progressive Democrat on a bicycle” is hoping to snag it.
To do that he knows he’ll need to lock up the student vote, but how best to engage with ever-distracted millennials who roam the campus with necks crooked down towards their phones?
There are the conventional answers — campus canvassing, early voting drives, campaigning on student issues like debt — all of which Fischer is focusing on.
And then there’s Grindr. And Tinder.
Fischer’s campaign is trying to reach young people where it really counts — their dating apps.
Speaking to Slate, Fischer elaborated on his approach:
My campaign was brainstorming ideas about how to engage with millennials. With Facebook and Twitter, people have to opt in—but when it comes to Grindr and Tinder, it’s direct engagement, direct conversations. It’s a medium that my opponents would never be able to use, anyway; it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for a 45-year-old to be messaging millennials on dating apps. We figured it’d be a fun way to engage with voters.
Asked whether he uses his own phone for the chats:
No. There’s a phone in the office dedicated to Tinder and Grindr outreach. We let volunteers come in and strike up messages with people on the apps, as long as they stay on message. “Hey, how’s it going, are you registered to vote?” “Go vote in the Democratic primary for Huey Rey Fischer!” “Huey Rey Fischer is the progressive choice on the ballot!” And so on.
Fischer elaborates that his campaign has a strict policy of keeping the chats PG.
So what does he do when things get a little, well, Grindr-y?
We’ve definitely had people say, “You’ve got my vote, and by the way, I’d love to get coffee with you sometime.” We’ve had to shy away from those offers and opportunities. We’ve had people message us and say, “hey, what are you looking for?”, which is very suggestive. Our immediate reply was, “Your vote!” We walk a fine line. If anybody sends something unsolicited and not election-oriented, we just delete the conversation. We don’t really engage beyond that point.
As for Fischer himself, he responds like a politician when asked if he’s ever used Grindr and Tinder to meet people outside of campaigning.
I’ve definitely used Tinder before; I’ve never personally used Grindr. Most people my age are on Tinder. It’s a great way to communicate with and meet people. But I have a boyfriend—we’ve known each other since freshman year at UT.
It’s the digital version of “I smoked, but I didn’t inhale.”
And in case you’re wondering, Fischer and his boyfriend met the old-fashioned way — at a campus Democrats meeting.