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Black Lives Matter Activist Launches Mayoral Bid With Online Crowdfunding Campaign

The Twitter philosopher rose to prominence in the aftermath of Michael Brown's fatal shooting in Ferguson, Mo.

Kimberly White / Getty Images for GLAAD

DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and Baltimore native, is using an online political crowdfunding platform to help finance his bid to become mayor of the troubled city.

The Twitter philosopher who rose to national prominence during the protests that followed Michael Brown’s fatal shooting in Ferguson, Mo., declared his candidacy on Medium. He acknowledged he is a nontraditional candidate for office, as someone who hasn’t served as mayor, city councilor or state office holder and isn’t the son of a well-connected family.

“I have come to realize that the traditional pathway to politics, and the traditional politicians who follow these well-worn paths, will not lead us to the transformational change our city needs,” Mckesson wrote.

Mckesson faces an uphill battle in the Democratic primary as he enters a crowded field that includes city council member Nick Mosby, the husband of the prosecutor who is trying six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, and former mayor Sheila Dixon.

As he launches his bid, Mckesson is tapping an equally nontraditional method of financing his campaign: Crowdpac’s crowdfunding site for political candidates. Within hours of announcing his political bid, he had received more than $31,000 in pledges from around 400 potential donors.

DeRay Mckesson

Crowdpac political director Mason Harrison, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Governor Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, said Mckesson is perhaps the most prominent person yet to take advantage of the crowdfunding site the organization created to encourage more political outsiders to seek office by easing the difficulty of raising money.

The crowdfunding site allows candidates for any local, state or federal office to set a fundraising goal and immediately begin raising support. Pledges are only processed if and when a campaign committee actually forms, which allows potential candidates to determine if they are viable candidates.

“It’s one of the first big examples of crowdfunding breaking through the political system and energizing this movement that we’re seeing manifest across the country known as Black Lives Matter,” Harrison said.

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