On July 17 2022, a Twitter account shared a short TikTok clip by “kenforflorida,” described as “politicians using TikTok properly”:
Here’s to politicians using TikTok properly lmao pic.twitter.com/VY7kOgjgE8
— Sonia Baschez (@SoniaBaschez) July 17, 2022
One day later, the clip spread widely via Reddit’s r/TikTokCringe, with a similar title:
Initially, the clip appeared to portray a woman in a crop top approaching a camera. The woman in the clip began crouching, at which time the clip shifted to a man in a suit (also crouching).
As the footage skipped (simulating attempts to scroll away), the man said:
Hey, are you registered to vote? There’s a primary on August 23rd, and the general election November 8th … wait wait, come back, wait ….
The clip was viewed more than seven million times on Twitter alone. In a threaded second tweet, the Twitter user tagged Ken Russell (@kenforflorida) and encouraged viewers to support his campaign:
s/o to @kenforflorida and help him turn his red seat blue in the House👇🏼
That threaded tweet linked to a May 24 2022 tweet by Ken Russell, in which he described himself as a “surfboard salesman who got off his couch to take on the government and remediate contaminated parks”:
👋🏼 I’m Ken Russell. I was a surfboard salesman who got off his couch to take on the government and remediate contaminated parks. Now I’m running for Congress in Florida to unseat Republican @MaElviraSalazar. RT & follow to help us grow!
— Ken Russell (@kenforflorida) May 24, 2022
On Twitter, Russell’s account was not verified; there, he had just under 16,000 followers. However, Russell was verified on TikTok, and had more than 366,000 followers (and nine million “likes” on the platform as of July 19 2022).
Russell shared the viral clip on June 23 2022, and frequently interacted on TikTok. Several of his posts referenced Florida’s closed primaries, reiterating a deadline to register to vote in the primary on July 25 2022.
What is the highest best use of public land? Happy people. Yes this skatepark is UNDER I-95 in downtown Miami. pic.twitter.com/pH7N9A7x3U
— Ken Russell (@kenforflorida) July 19, 2022
NBC News reporter Ben Collins shared the original clip to Twitter, contrasting Russell’s posts with that of other politicians on social media:
This video proved to me it actually is possible to reach young people through means other than fear, horror, and desperate pleas for cash, but simply no one is doing it.
In the comments of Russell’s most popular clip, one commenter remarked:
Please give your social media manager a raise 😂
In response, Russell maintained that his TikTok presence was self-organized, later saying the popular post required three takes:
It’s just ME and candidates can’t get paid by their own campaign 😬
On July 17 2022, a viral TikTok video of a politician “using TikTok properly lmao” spread virally on Twitter and Reddit. Both the clip and the politician (Ken Russell, or @kenforflorida) were real and accurately described. Russell encouraged Floridians in his district to register to vote in the primary before the July 25 2022 deadline, and he sought to “unseat Republican [María Elvira Salazar],” an incumbent. A May 2022 article from Floridapolitics.com indicated Russell was (prior to the viral videos) within “striking distance” of Salazar in recent polls.