Adam Christensen Is Centering A Congressional Campaign Around Working-Class Justice
The 26-year-old candidate made history on Tuesday by securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District with a campaign comprised entirely of college students and Generation Z organizers.
Adam Christensen made history on Tuesday when he secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. It is believed that Christensen’s campaign is comprised of the youngest staff to ever win a major party primary (most, if not all of his 50-person staff are aged 23 or younger). This is significant because it represents a passing of the torch to the new generation of activists and organizers coming out of groups such as the Sunrise Movement, March For Our Lives, and other youth-led organizations which have had a profound impact on the American political landscape in recent years.
Christensen is aiming to become the youngest Democrat ever elected to Congress from the state of Florida, and if elected, would be the youngest member of Congress at age 27.
Occupying the progressive lane of the Democratic Party, Christensen’s platform takes a unique approach to leftist policy goals by reframing concepts such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and Universal Childcare as middle-class tax cuts. If there’s one underlying idea that drives Christensen’s campaign, it’s working class justice.
Other policy proposals central to Christensen’s platform include paid family and sick leave, fully funding public college and university tuition for all students, and the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana to end unjust imprisonment for petty drug crime.
Christensen’s platform on criminal justice reform is reflective of our times and informed by his own personal experiences. A few years ago, while coaching a high school soccer game in Polk County, Christensen was wrongfully arrested for trespassing after a call was placed to local law enforcement by an unknown citizen. Police asked for the visas and identifications of his assistant coach and multiple hispanic members of the team. The team was escorted off of the field and Christensen was taken down by an officer who slammed his head to the ground. Because so many witnesses were present, all charges were dropped against the team, but the experience left a lasting impression on Christensen, introducing him firsthand to the issues resulting from for-profit policing.
Christensen maintains that the police brutality we see all over the country today is the result of overfunded police departments which have been heavily militarized over the past decade and focus primarily on reactive rather than proactive justice. As many activists involved in the Black Lives Matter movement have proposed, Christensen supports a reallocation of funds away from bloated police department budgets toward community-led solutions and increasing the number of social workers, mental health counselors, and other licensed professionals responding to non-violent crime, which makes up the vast majority of 911 calls.
Grassroots organizing and small-dollar fundraising are central to Christensen’s campaign. He has taken the No Fossil Fuel money pledge and takes no money from Super PACs or corporate donors, a stance which he views as crucial in his commitment to fighting for good-paying green jobs, universal healthcare, and regulating prescription drug prices set by predatory pharmaceutical companies.
Christensen has picked up some key endorsements from respected political action groups across Florida (Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida, Florida College Democrats) as well as national organizations such as No Democrat Left Behind and The Solidarity Movement.
Two former Democratic presidential candidates have also offered their support. Christensen’s proposal for a Universal Basic Income for all Americans has courted the endorsement of businessman and UBI proponent Andrew Yang, as well as Yang’s political action nonprofit, Humanity Forward, which looks to elect pro-UBI candidates for political office down the ballot. Author and activist Marianne Williamson has also endorsed Christensen, and was one of many progressive advocates to interview him leading up to the primary election.
Florida’s 3rd Congressional District (which encompasses all of Alachua, Putnam, Bradford, Clay, and Union counties, along with parts of Marion County) has been written off by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and most race tracking websites as a “Safe Republican” district, implying the district’s futility for the Democratic Party. This is an understandable assessment, if you take into account the district’s preference for President Trump by a 16-point margin in 2016.
The historical trends in this district tell a more nuanced story, however.
FL-3 was a safe Democratic district from its creation in 1903 until the election of the district’s current representative, Ted Yoho, in 2012. In each successive election since his first, the gap between Yoho and his Democratic opponent has narrowed noticeably. Most recently, Yvonne Hayes Hinson mounted the most effective campaign against Yoho thus far, securing 42.2% of the vote.
This year’s Democratic primary in the district was quite notable in that the top two candidates (Christensen with 34.5% of the vote and democratic socialist Tom Wells with 33.2% of the vote) represent a stark ideology shift toward progressive platform proposals for Democrats in the district, as corporate-backed candidate Philip Dodds came in third with 32.3% of the vote. In a district which is accustomed to selecting more moderate candidates as their Democratic nominees, this change is something to keep an eye on.
Ted Yoho is not seeking re-election this year, but a former Yoho associate has stepped up to fill his seat. Christensen’s general election opponent, Republican Primary winner Kat Cammack, will not have the name recognition of Yoho, but does have his full support — Cammack has previously served as Yoho’s campaign manager and is considered by many to be his hand-picked successor. Because of this, it is crucial to scrutinize Yoho’s recent activities during his final term in the House of Representatives.
Yoho has been in the news a few times this year — and not exactly for the most flattering of reasons. In February, Yoho turned heads for being one of the few Congressmen to oppose the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which passed the House of Representative with bipartisan support, 410–4. The bill was introduced to make lynching a federal crime, adding an extra punitive measure by delineating the act as a civil rights violation. Yoho told CNN after the vote that the largely uncontroversial bill was an “overreach of the federal government” and cited a states’ rights argument to support his vote.
Yoho was once again in the national spotlight just last month when, within earshot of a Washington reporter, he called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) a “f*cking g b*tch” during an altercation on the steps of the Capitol concerning the government’s insufficient economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interaction, as well as the subsequent speeches from both Yoho and Ocasio-Cortez on the floor of the House, were highly publicized affairs.
Following the resulting news coverage, there was a noticeable increase in the public interest as to who would replace Yoho this November following his retirement. Christensen capitalized on his shared policy goals with Ocasio-Cortez to release a statement on why he is running to be Yoho’s replacement, and how his campaign is the best-suited to beat the Republican nominee. The result was one of Christensen’s strongest fundraising weeks to date.
Yoho’s retirement resulted in a notably large Republican field to fill his seat. Republican nominee Kat Cammack is running as a constitutional conservative on a platform nearly identical to that of Yoho, who has voted in line with Trump’s position on 97.4% of measures during his current term. Cammack made it through a deep field of 10 Republican candidates to secure her party’s nomination, including businessman Judson Sapp (who was endorsed by Roger Stone as well as Congressmen Matt Gaetz and John Rutherford) and top-fundraiser and physician James St. George.
Like many insurgent progressives, Christensen faces a steep fundraising gap against his corporate-backed opponent. According to OpenSecrets.org, Christensen has been outspent by a margin of 23–1 by Cammack, who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from large-dollar donors and Super PACs.
For Christensen, perhaps an even bigger gap to make up will be the turnout gap between Democrats and Republicans in his district. Florida’s 3rd Congressional District had very competitive primaries on both sides of the aisle this year, but the number of Republicans who came out to vote on or before Tuesday (85,883) vastly outnumbered the Democratic turnout (60,904).
If this is any indication of what November may look like, Christensen faces an uphill battle that he hopes to make up for with his strong showing in the district’s rural counties and his stated appeal to all voters, regardless of ideology, who believe that neither major party represents the interests of the average person. Christensen has cited his Republican upbringing in the Midwest to appeal to independents and Republicans alike. Contrasting himself and his grassroots campaign with the corporate-backed Cammack will be crucial to his general election fight.
National organizations such as the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, and Our Revolution, which support insurgent progressives in down-ballot races all over the country, notably sat out the FL-3 Democratic Primary. Whether this is because Tom Wells, another solid candidate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, also sought the nomination or because the district is not considered winnable having been represented by Yoho for 8 years, is yet to be seen. The organizational infrastructure that these organizations offer, especially in the age of social distancing and COVID-19, could make all the difference in the outcome of November’s general election.