Huey Rey Fischer identifies as a queer, vegetarian, Latino “progressive Democrat on a bicycle.” He is 23 years old, and he’s running for state representative in Texas’ District 49, which encompasses the University of Texas at Austin. A longtime incumbent is vacating the seat, and Fischer, who attended UT Austin, believes he can defeat his six competitors by seizing the student vote in the March 1 primary. Fischer is campaigning in all the ways youth-vote-hungry candidates campaign—college canvassing, early voting drives, a focus on student debt—with a twist: He’s reaching out to voters on Grindr and Tinder, popular dating apps famous for facilitating hookups. (Grindr is designed for gay men; Tinder is for everyone.) On Wednesday, I spoke with Fischer about political goals and his unconventional campaign tactics. Our interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Why are you running for this seat?
I’m tired of seeing people occupying spaces of power that don’t belong to them. Students deserve a voice at the capital—as well as renters, low-income families, and other marginalized groups that have been shut out from the political process.
What will you bring to the capital that your primary opponents cannot?
I’m talking about issues that aren’t even being discussed at the legislature. On LGBT rights, I’m the only one talking about suicide and homelessness rates among LGBT teens. I’m talking about employment discrimination, the sexual assault crisis at UT, and the rising tuition at our colleges. I’m going to be more than just a good vote. I’m going to be a proactive member of the legislature, pushing the conversation back to the left.
How did you decide to campaign through Grindr and Tinder?
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.
Do you message voters from your personal phone?
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.
Do you worry that you might be abusing the medium? People typically use these apps to connect with potential intimate partners, not politicians.
We don’t strike up conversations. We allow other people to strike up the conversation with us. It’s a profile of me, and it says clearly that I’m a candidate for state representatives, seeking votes. When people message us, for the most part, they know I’m a candidate for the state legislature.
Have any potential voters ever crossed the line or failed to grasp the purpose of the conversation?
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.
Did you use these apps before your campaign began?
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.
Did you meet your boyfriend through a dating app?
No. We met at a University Democrats meeting.