Dr. Sydnee Smirl McElroy, host of the podcast Sawbones with her fellow podcaster and husband Justin McElroy, is running for the West Virginia house of delegates in the 26th district.
The McElroy Family podcast network is an unambiguously successful entertainment enterprise, and one that the family proudly runs out of West Virginia. On Dr. McElroy’s campaign site, she mentions having made the choice to stay in the state with her husband after they started a family together.
“After completing my undergraduate and medical training as a daughter of Marshall, I made the decision alongside my husband to stay and raise our children in our hometown,” the site reads. “I am proud to have a job that allows me to care for the people of my district and also provide volunteer medical services through the Cabell Huntington Coalition for the Homeless.”
Dr. McElroy is running on a progressive platform, with campaign positions like expanding and improving health care, expanding broadband access, and supporting working families.
Dr. McElroy’s campaign announcement got more attention than one would expect for a campaign for the lower house of a state government. On Twitter, the tweet launching her campaign has over 17 thousand likes, and over 2,000 retweets. The incumbent for this seat in the house of delegates, Republican Dr. Matthew Rorhback, does not have a Twitter account, and his Facebook page only has 852 followers. Democrat H. Kate White, who is running against Dr. McElroy in the Democratic primary, does not appear to have a website.
It remains to be seen if Dr. McElroy’s second job as a podcaster and social media personality will impact her campaign for the West Virginia house of delegates. Curiously, her campaign website doesn't mention her podcast or her husband’s podcast network, and she doesn’t appear to be leveraging her modest internet fame in order to win the vote. Motherboard reached out to Dr. McElroy’s campaign for comment and they did not respond.
The McElroy Family podcast network is the home of Sawbones, as well as Dr. McElroy’s husband’s podcasts My Brother, My Brother and Me, and The Adventure Zone. These podcasts not only boast huge fanbases, but measurable mainstream success. Both My Brother, My Brother and Me and Adventure Zone have spun out into additional media properties. My Brother, My Brother and Me was developed into a television show for the website Seeso, which was filmed in Huntington, West Virginia. The Adventure Zone has been turned into a series of comics and is being developed as an animated television show.
The McElroy family has already flexed their political capital in their hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. The town’s local Pride Parade is sponsored by the family. Huntington mayor Stephen T. Williams also made appearances on their television show. Clint McElroy, Dr. McElroy’s father in law was also a longtime local radio host in the community.
Internet personalities have run for office before, but not usually successfully. While politicians like New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been able to leverage virality into electoral success, other politicians with established online footprints, like Massachusetts’ Brianna Wu, who ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Massachusetts 8th district in 2018 but lost the primary, have not been as lucky.