Against the odds, a Pensacola Democrat eyes congressional seat
In Florida’s reddest congressional district, 31-year-old Amanda Kondrat’yev is snubbing the odds and running an outspokenly liberal campaign for the open seat soon to be vacated by eight-term Congressman Jeff Miller.
Since Miller’s announcement last month that he would not seek re-election, media attention has focused on the half-dozen Republican candidates who want to replace Miller, a field led by apparent frontrunners State Sen. Greg Evers and State Rep. Matt Gaetz.
And that makes sense: a Democrat hasn’t represented Florida’s first congressional district, which stretches across six counties, in more than 20 years. The district hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1960. The Cook Political Report gives the district a Partisan Voting Index of R+22, meaning Republicans have a 22-percentage-point advantage over Democrats, the highest in the state.
By all accounts, it’s impossible for a Democrat to win in this district, and recent results have borne that out. In each of Miller’s seven bids for re-election, he never got less than 69% of the vote.
Nonetheless, Kondrat’yev says that she’s running an “absolutely serious campaign.”
“I am educated, experienced, and I know what it is like to struggle in Northwest Florida,” says Kondrat’yev. “I see the lasting effects of racism, sexism, and oppression. I see how hard it is to raise children here, especially children with special needs or while living in poverty.”
Kondrat’yev, a graduate of the University of West Florida, says she’s worried that her two children will inherit the problems created by what she calls shortsighted policies and poor strategy. “I want to ensure that the American dream of opportunity is achievable for all of us, and I want to rebuild a strong middle class,” she says.
Indeed, Kondrat’yev, who works in the IT field, has focused her campaign on economic issues. “The problem I see is the gross inequality here and throughout the country,” she says. Taking a cue from Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders — whom Kondrat’yev supports — she cites addressing “the corrupting influence of money in politics” as one of her top goals. “The American dream is not only supposed to be for the already wealthy and powerful,” she says.
Kondrat’yev’s stark fundraising disadvantage has already been illustrated by Gaetz, who announced this week that he’d raised $350,000 in just the first ten days of his campaign. Kondrat’yev took the news in stride, pointing out that like Sanders, she rejects the use of so-called “Super PACs” and won’t accept corporate donations. “I represent the struggle,” says Kondrat’yev, who has worked what she calls “low-wage, no-benefit jobs” during most of the 15 years she’s lived in Pensacola. “I think that some of the most undervalued people of Northwest Florida are fighting for their lives and are not able to get ahead, and instead of helping, establishment politicians blame the poor or minorities for all the problems.”
Growing up as a Navy brat, Kondrat’yev says that she was always taught to stand up and fight when she sees problems, rather than shying away or ignoring them. “Wages are too low, and the benefits cliff is keeping people down,” she says. “Childcare is unaffordable, there is a huge Medicaid gap, housing is too expensive, the schools are failing, and crime is high. I feel a sense of duty to my country to fight back against people like Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz.”