Kat Cammack woke up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday for her interview on “Fox & Friends,” followed by about a dozen Zoom meetings. Her focus throughout the day is on her campaign.
Cammack considers herself a “constitutional conservative.”
“My job, and my oath and my loyalties are to the United States constitution,” she said.
The 32-year-old is running as the Republican District 3 representative in Congress, replacing Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, who is not seeking re-election as of now. Cammack was a former deputy chief of staff for the congressman from 2011 to Dec. 2019.
Cammack’s campaign policies touch on immigration, protecting life at conception, supporting the second amendment and the military, repealing Obamacare, returning control of education back to the states and more. However, out of these, she said the most prominent issue right now is fiscal spending.
Cammack is running against Adam Christensen, the Democratic nominee. Her goal: standing in Congress alongside President Trump. He first endorsed Cammack on Sept. 10 via Twitter. She also spoke at his campaign rally on Friday in Ocala.
“Our country in the next 20 days is going to be making a decision between socialism and freedom,” Cammack said. “And that is really what the nexus of this election is all about.”
Cammack grew up on a cattle farm as the daughter of a single mother. Her family ran a commercial sandblasting and monument business. Growing up, she saw gaps in how the federal government directed funding to small businesses.
“Really seeing how the government, particularly big government or federal government, did not facilitate or really create an environment in which businesses could thrive,” Cammack said. “I learned firsthand the red tape that was involved.”
In April of 2011, the family ended up losing their small cattle ranch to a government program called the Home Affordable Modification Program, a federal loan modification program introduced in 2009 to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Cammack said she had 23 days to evict and was in hotels for several months.
“When you're homeless for several months, that uncertainty is terrifying,” Cammack said.
Cammack said the U.S. needs to make critical reform to these programs. She said it is the job of representatives in Washington D.C. to be good stewards of taxpayer money.
“No one is talking about the mandatory spending in Washington that's on autopilot, and that's Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Cammack said.
She has also been working with the North Central Florida Human Trafficking task force for the last seven years and said it’s an issue that has been swept under the rug.
“It's something that is happening here in our backyards, it's happening here in Gainesville, it's happening everywhere,” Cammack said. “We collectively need to come together to make sure that no one is trafficked in this country or globally.”
Faith Allen, a 20-year-old UF telecommunication junior, is Cammack’s press secretary. Allen said she is proud to support a young female conservative.
Allen said she has been working for Cammack since January and met her last August when she was interning with Ted Yoho for the fall semester of 2019. Allen said she thinks Cammack is going to win and said Cammack is fully prepared to take on the policies she stands with.
“Kat is an inspiration, she's an incredibly hard worker,” Allen said. “To see her really take this young team under her wing is really important to me.”
In March, when everything started shutting down, she said her campaign took a hit to fundraising due to uncertainty from donors. Cammack said they were able to translate their grassroots strategy from being in the field to online and over the phone.
“While COVID has definitely turned our entire world upside down, we have adapted, and I think that's a sign of how we will be in Washington,” Cammack said.
If she wins, Cammack said she will be taking an oath to the U.S. Constitution, not to a party. That means representing all constituents, Democrats, Republicans and everyone in-between, she said.
“In this district, we have 710,000 constituents that have jobs and families and lives, and they need to make sure that their representative has got their back,” Cammack said.
Adam Christensen wakes up at 6 a.m. to coach the Oak Hall School boys varsity soccer team before he hits the campaign trail a few hours later.
The 27-year-old small business owner and Democratic nominee is the leader of one of the youngest congressional campaigns in the country. He is looking to flip Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, which has stayed Republican since Ted Yoho won the seat in 2012. Christensen is running against the Republican nominee Kat Cammack, Yoho’s former chief of staff.
Running a campaign is much like coaching a team, Christensen said. He thinks in both campaigning and in soccer, it’s the work that nobody sees that gives his team the edge to win.
“If you do it right, you not only close the gap, but you can shock some people,” he said.
Christensen would shock some people if he wins Florida’s 3rd congressional district. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rated the district as an R+9 “solid Republican” district in 2018. Yoho, who is not seeking re-election as of now, won his four elections by an average of 24 percentage points.
Despite past election results, this race is closer than one would think, Christensen said. He thinks Yoho only won elections by such big margins because of his name recognition.
Christensen does not consider his policy platform to be radical, he said. He said his number one policy priority is small business growth and protecting small businesses from monopolies and big corporations.
“We haven't been growing, we've been stagnant for a very long time,” Christensen said. “I think people are sick of that.”
Born in Kansas and raised in Indiana, Christensen traveled the country after college before settling down in Gainesville at age 22 to start his business. He’s the CEO of Essential Validation Services, a biotechnology laboratory that tests natural products such as essential oils and CBD.
Christensen said he wants to put small business incubators in every county in the district so people with an idea for a business don’t move somewhere else. Small business incubators are spaces where small businesses can rent space with other small businesses in a community to grow together.
He also said he is passionate about protecting college students from student loan debt. Christensen’s platform supports making higher education free to all who want it.
Although Election Day is Nov. 3, early voting in Alachua County starts Oct. 19. The campaign is going to up its pace in these last few weeks, Christensen said.
“We just hit fourth gear,” he said. “We're about to hit fifth, and this is a six-speed.”
Christensen supports universal basic income, a policy popularized by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, according to his campaign website. Universal basic income is a policy where the government allows every adult to opt into a stipend every month in place of welfare programs.
“Here’s your money back from the government, go spend it however you want,” Christensen wrote in a tweet.
Christensen also supports Medicare For All, a policy sponsored by former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The policy proposes a universal single-payer healthcare system where people pay for healthcare through the government.
In Gainesville, organizers marched from UF’s campus to downtown multiple times in response to the death of George Floyd. Christensen marched with the protesters and said he supports reallocating funding from police budgets to other social services.
“The funding needs to go to make sure that we're actually investing in things that lower crime,” he said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign evolved and changed. Anton Kernohan, a 21-year-old third-year UF student studying political science and sustainability, is Christensen’s campaign manager. The campaign was built for a situation like this because of how young everyone is, he said.
“We are lucky that we designed our campaign to be entirely youth-led,” Kernohan said. “That meant we knew how to use social media, and we knew how to run a virtual campaign.”
Despite the focus shift to online platforms, the campaign has had to adapt to the competition. Kernohan said the campaign has been knocking on doors again as the campaign hits the final stretch.
The doors the campaign knocks on are in places that normally do not vote Democratic, Christensen said. In order to get people to open their doors, Christensen said the campaign has been employing creative strategies, like wearing red shirts instead of blue, a color associated with the Democratic party.
Monetary contributions: $803,988.26
Total spending: $570,672.63
All information from FEC.
Monetary contributions: $138,679.96
All information from FEC.
Anna Wilder is a second-year journalism major and the criminal justice reporter. She's from Melbourne, Florida, and she enjoys being outdoors or playing the viola when she's not writing.
Steven Walker is the Fall 2021 Editor in Chief of The Alligator. He has previously worked at the Orlando Sentinel; and has bylines in the Miami Herald, Associated Press and Florida Times Union. In his free time, he likes to take long walks with his dog Luna and watch his favorite sports teams, the Orlando Magic and the Green Bay Packers.