Somehow, the fact that Mike Itkis is an open atheist is one of the least interesting things about his campaign for Congress. Even if you’re not familiar with his name, you might be familiar with the headlines about how a long-shot candidate made a sex tape to promote his platform.
Itkis is running as an independent in the race for New York’s 12th Congressional District. This is a seat that should be a lock for Democrats; the drama in the newly redrawn district took place entirely in the primary, where Rep. Jerry Nadler easily beat out Rep. Carolyn Maloney in a battle between the two Democratic heavyweights. Since then, there hasn’t been much to discuss as far as this race goes.
That is, until Itkis put some skin in the game.
Three months ago, the 53-year-old Itkis posted a video on PornHub of him having sex with adult performer Nicole Sage, an encounter that was filmed last year. He didn’t call attention to “Bucket List Bonanza,” however, until an interview with City & State during which he highlighted his sex positive platform and said the video was a “conversation piece.”
“If I would just talk about it, it wouldn’t demonstrate my commitment to the issue. And the fact I actually did it was a huge learning experience, and it actually influenced items on my platform.”
I suppose it’s a good thing his primary issue isn’t legalizing physician-assisted dying.
Itkis is only campaigning on three issues, according to his website, and the most space is reserved for sex positivity. The most interesting element there is that he wants to “decriminalize and legalize sex work,” something that even many progressive Democrats are hesitant to support, at least out loud. If the sex tape helps raise awareness of that issue, so be it. He happens to be right and it’s not like his campaign is getting any attention otherwise.
(More controversially, Itkis says fathers shouldn’t be required to provide child support to their biological kids “without prior agreement.”)
Outside of all that, his campaign is somewhat unusual because the U.S. Army Reserve member describes himself—in bold, no less—as “Not married. No kids. Not celibate. Atheist.”
While none of those things are, or should be, qualifications for office, most candidates tend to keep their atheism under wraps. It’s only in recent years that more non-religious politicians have been willing to embrace that label (or a close synonym) if it applies, but even then, it’s not like they’re campaigning on it because they’re not trying to get elected in order to push their religious views on their constituents. They’re candidates who happen to be atheists, not atheist activists eager to spread their views through politics.
Even conservatives who use their Christian faith as their main selling point to voters go on to state their conservative bona fides. Mike Pence, for example, frequently said, “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican—in that order.” A Republican whose campaign ads only highlighted her opposite-sex marriage, 2.5 children, and commitment to Jesus would rightly deserve criticism for it because none of that should matter in public office.
Itkis is counting on his non-traditional positions—in all senses of that word—to win over the few people who might not want to vote for a traditional Democrat. But you can bet that some conservatives will inevitably link his atheism and the sex tape to suggest society is in some sort of decline. Neither of those things are immoral. If you want to roll your eyes, do it at his desperate bid for attention, not the fact that he had consensual sex on camera.
There are plenty of problems with this campaign; the sex tape isn’t one of them.
While the Nadler campaign didn’t comment on the video, the Republican candidate chimed in with what seems like somewhat begrudging admiration:
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” Mike Zumbluskas told City & State. “The media ignores everybody that’s not a Democrat in the city.”
Maybe the bigger question is what Itkis plans to do after he loses. He’s hardly the first candidate to use sex to get attention; he may be the first to use politics to launch an OnlyFans account.