An upstart Democratic congressional candidate wants voters to swipe right.
Suraj Patel — preparing for a primary showdown Tuesday against Rep. Carolyn Maloney — and his staff have been creating fake profiles on popular dating apps in order to engage with potential voters.
The dating site bait-and-switch is “kinda like catfishing,” Patel told the New York Times.
Patel’s campaign passed out instructions to his team to use stock photos of a “hottie” for the phony accounts if they’re not comfortable using their own pictures, according to a Times reporter who tweeted out a photo of a “Tinder Banking 101” pamphlet.
Patel, a 34-year-old hotel executive and Lower East Side resident, told The Times he used a photo of his own brother in the dating profiles he created. “Tinder banking” is named for the mobile phone dating app that alerts users when potential matches are nearby.
Patel is “running a different kind of campaign, one focused on growing the electorate to include as many voters as possible,” spokeswoman Lis Smith told the Daily News. “Politicians like Carolyn Maloney engage in political tactics from last century that excite no one and completely overlook the need to bring new people into the process.”
The campaign is utilizing phone banks and other common get-out-the-vote methods, but also employing the non-traditional in a bid to appeal to younger voters, Smith said, noting that only 2% of people between ages 18 and 34 voted in the 2016 congressional primary.
The Times described Patel’s insurgent challenge against the establishment as “the most millennial of campaigns.”
Smith maintained that the dating app approach was on the up-and-up.
“All of our supporters and volunteers had Suraj’s campaign logo in their profiles, and the people they interacted with were excited to be engaged civically,” she said.
However, the practice of posing as potential romantic partners has raised eyebrows in political circles — and among dating app users.
“As someone who spends way too much time on dating apps and also is civically engaged, I can firmly say this is a terriblly ineffective tactic,” tweeted writer Amanda Smith.
“So this piece says that Suraj Patel’s campaign creates fake profiles on Grindr, Tinder, etc to lure romantic hopefuls into becoming ‘civically engaged’. I’d liked to be excluded from any narrative where catfishing on LGBTQ dating apps is considered a millennial campaign tactic,” wrote City Hall staffer Zachariah Boyer.
David Nir, the political director of the liberal Daily Kos blog site, tweeted that the online effort “makes my skin crawl.”
His comment drew a swift rebuke from Smith.
“So where in the process of you trolling drunk girls for threesomes did you decide political outreach was gross? If that’s not funny to you, imagine how it feels in real life. You made *our* skin crawl.” she responded.
Nir shrugged off Smith’s insinuations and focused on the campaign tactic.
“I don’t believe that any campaign, Democratic or Republican, should deploy campaign tactics that rely on deception, and claiming that such efforts ‘work’ isn’t a justification,” he told The News.
The 12th Congressional District covers the eastern side of Manhattan and small parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Maloney has held the seat since 1992.