Skip to Content

CAHSS Gen-Z Alumna’s Congressional Run Aims to Open Doors to American Dream

Back to Article Listing


Susan Dugan


Profile  •
Cheyenne Hunt

A first-generation student descended from Syrian refugees, Alumna Cheyenne Hunt (BA’18) grew up in Southern California with a single mother and single grandmother, instilling a passion for effecting social and political change to help others realize the American dream.

“So much of that process was looking at how the system is stacked against working-class people, minorities and women and finding ways to overcome it,” she said. “I knew I wanted to open doors for others that it took my family three generations to open because that’s an unacceptable amount of time for folks to be able to access upward mobility and opportunity.”

A progressive Democrat, currently among several candidates challenging the incumbent Republican Michelle Steel in California’s 45th congressional district open primary, Hunt is among the first Gen-Z candidates currently running for offices at various levels of government nationwide.

A double major in political science and public policy, she describes her University of Denver and CAHSS journey as “formative from the start,” and credits the social justice Living & Learning Community where she lived and worked with like-minded students with providing “a training ground” for future advocacy.

Hunt attributes “many subsequent career decisions” to the guidance of mentors Professor Josh Wilson and Professor Jing Sun in the Department of Political Science. “They are leaders in their fields looking at the way our political system has been systematically attacked,” she said. “Their classes offered an analytical framework that was very human, not just theory. The reality is people’s lives are impacted by decisions that are made in legislatures and courts.”

“Cheyenne was always an engaged student, and one who was consistently evaluating what she wanted in a constructive, self-aware way,” said Wilson. “These are qualities that you really appreciate as a professor, and I am really pleased to see her running for office. To me, it looks like Cheyenne is finding a satisfying way to realize her enduring interest in politics, policy, law and the public good.

Hunt also notes the influence of the “pivotal historical moment” provided by the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016 during her time at DU. “It was an insane time to be a political science major and look at the difference between theory and reality. We got to experience what happens when the polls all say one thing and there’s a cultural backlash that causes another, to go through that together and try to figure out how to protect vulnerable community members.”

Her time at DU enabled Hunt to form lifelong personal and professional bonds with fellow students such as Alumna Bailey Wagner (BA ’18). “She’s my best friend and did a lot of work on women’s health care advocacy especially after the attacks on reproductive rights started,” Hunt said.

Wagner, currently a youth soccer coach and site director for Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer, speaks frequently with Hunt about the state of reproductive rights and healthcare in the U.S., as well as globally. “Cheyenne is the eloquent voice of a generation; she is the best of us, and I cannot think of anyone I trust more to take on a journey that can impact the lives of so many,” she said.

Following graduation from DU, Hunt earned a law degree from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in 2021 and defended domestic violence survivors in the Orange County, Calif., courts while working with the UCI Law pro bono domestic violence program, a cause close to her heart.

“I grew up having experienced domestic violence, so I was coming full circle, being on the other side working with the legal system that I had found so disenfranchising and dehumanizing, and seeing the ways in which we still have so much progress to be made toward protecting women.”

Hunt then served as clerk to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, becoming the youngest person to clerk in the Senate, where she drafted and advanced legislation on behalf of progressive causes including bills to regulate Big Tech. She also participated in constructing the Senate Judiciary Committee’s constitutional argument in the first impeachment case against former President Trump.

“I worked with a stellar group of people and had the opportunity to be in the Senate gallery and watch now House Minority Leader Congressman Hakeem Jeffries make the bipartisan argument for impeachment that we had worked painstakingly to lay out,” she said.

Her experience working in the Senate and later for a progressive policy organization in Washington, DC, prompted her decision to run for Congress.

“The status quo in Washington is fundamentally broken,” she said. “I think we as a country are facing existential threats whether it’s climate change going unchecked, attacks on women’s rights and democracy or an economy that is rigged against working people in favor of corporate special interests.”

Hunt spent more than a year posting informational and policy content online before launching her campaign, entered the race with “a significant social media following” and has garnered national media attention from various sources. She considers her primary race historic.

“If I’m selected as the nominee, I’ll be the first Gen-Z woman ever nominated for Congress and if I win, the first ever elected. I think folks are ready for that. Not having the crucial voice of an entire generation of women in Washington right now is abhorrent given the state of women’s rights.”

Hunt’s time in Washington also helped her understand the importance of advancing and voting for the best political options and alternatives, however imperfect.

“We cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of progress,” she said. “We’re in a partisan legislative system and progress is going to be achieved for the most part incrementally. We must make concessions to move forward. The American ideal is striving for the more perfect union, not the perfect one.”

She remains confident that members of her generation will continue to shape the government's direction for the better.

“Folks in politics often say that young people get distracted, they don’t vote, they’re not effective, but we’re reminding people that some of the most impactful, historical movements in this country including the Civil Rights Movement have been powered by young people. Whether it’s working to restore a woman’s right to choose or trying to protect the climate I really do believe we can do this together.”

According to the Associated Press, Cheyenne Hunt did not collect enough votes to advance in the open primary for the 45th Congressional District seat in California.

Related Articles