Maxwell Alejandro Frost can easily name the political moments in his childhood that have stayed with him.
Frost stated, "Turning on TV and seeing a bunch people sleeping outside Wall Street talking about something called "wealth inequality" aEUR," Frost added.
He said, "Growing-up, I learned that Trayvon Martin was killed for being Black and that a boy that looked like me was wearing a hoodie, and then seeing the outrage."
Frost is running for Congress in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. This seat is open and solidly colored, with parts of Orlando aEUR". Frost is 25 years old, which makes him the minimum age to be eligible to serve in Congress.
He is also part of Generation Z aEUR", which the Pew Research Center defines to be anyone born between 1997 and 2012. If elected, he could become the first Gen Z member in Congress. This 2022 midterm cycle is the first in 16 years when Millennials have not been able to run for office. It raises questions about Gen Z's approach to Washington.
Frost's roots lie in organizing. He has been an activist since 2012's Sandy Hook massacre and was most recently the national organizing director of March For Our Lives. This youth-led group advocates for increased gun control policies. Frost is also a survivor from a separate incident involving gun violence.
According to him, Gen Z is a new generation that approaches politics because it was born during a volatile time in American history.
"Our generation was born into trauma and civil unrest, with people frustrated by things. Frost stated that his generation thinks a little differently about things because of this.
Ray Reed, 25, is breaking with the mold in the suburbs of Saint Louis. Ray Reed, a former Democratic campaign staffer and organizer who is trying to oust Republican Rep. Ann Wagner from Missouri's 2nd Congressional District. He also pushes against those who believe he should get involved in local politics.
"The cynics say that he is too young and untried. Maybe if he spent a few terms in Jeff[erson] City he might be ready to run for Congress. This is just political talk. Let's get him into our system. Let's show him how to play the game. Reed stated that if he is ready, he could run for a higher office."
He claims that cynics have cast him out of the picture as the risky one.
He said, "I believe the real risk is to nominate exactly the same type Democratic candidates election after electoral after election and somehow expect a completely different result."
Frost and Reed are both progressives. They focus on issues such as gun violence prevention, passing the Green New Deal, and canceling student loans.
Both candidates were outraged at the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and posted videos and photos of the protests they had attended.
Reed also tied Reed's decision to Gen Z voters.
A reporter just asked me whataEUR(tm)s my generationaEUR(tm)s response to the Supreme CourtaEUR(tm)s decision to overturn #RoeVsWadeaEUR"WeaEUR(tm)re going to march, organize, and VOTE like our lives depend on it!dY--3
Frost and Reed may be issue-oriented but Frost and Reed also acknowledge that age plays a part in their campaigns.
Frost sees the possibility of making history as the first Gen Z House Member more symbolic than anything.
He stated, "Yes, we march, yes, we engage in mutual assistance, and yes, we engage on Social Media. Now we're running to office because we believe we are ready to be in the room and to be the voice of our communities. We can do that, and young people should also be allowed to vote."
Frost will face a challenge by state senator Randolph Bracy. However, Frost has received a number of high-profile endorsements from progressive leaders such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Frost has also been supported by the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC as well as the gun control group Giffords.
Frost and Reed's drive is understandable to Amanda Litman, a Millennial who is the CEO of Run for Something which supports first-time Democratic candidates.
Litman stated that you don't run for office when you are 25 years old because it's your next career step or the thing you have been planning since kindergarten or college. Litman said, "You run because you have a problem so intensely driving you that it is impossible to imagine doing anything else with you time."
This passion isn’t limited to Democratic candidates aEUR” Karoline Leavitt, a conservative candidate for Congress in New Hampshire's 1st District. It is currently held by Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas.
Leavitt will turn 25 in August. She is therefore eligible to be a member of Congress in January.
Leavitt stated that "it's a very one-sided cultural that we live in." "How can we break through that mold?" It's through electing young people to office, which can resonate with them, and have a platform on the national stage that can show them ideas.
Leavitt, a highly vetted GOP staffer who works as an assistant press secretary in the Trump administration, is already working as an Assistant Press Secretary. She was most recently the spokesperson for Millennial Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who became the youngest female elected representative to Congress in 2014. Stefanik also endorses Leavitt, along with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.).
Although Gen Z's early voting patterns are strongly liberal, Leavitt hopes that her campaign will inspire young conservatives to vote against progressive ideas that she believes are too extreme.
She stated that she believed some of the more progressive candidates were a reflection on the existing system and that it's the exact system she is trying to combat.
Frost, who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from Frost, shares a similar fighting attitude in his vision for how he would function in a bitterly divided Congress.
Frost stated that "We don't come to the table expecting to reach a compromise," which is what Democrats are known to do. Frost said that this was part of the reason the Republican Party has long-term plans that often come to fruition.
According to Kristin Soltis, a conservative strategist and pollster aEUR", this determination to stick to your values is a deviation from the Millennial generation that came to Congress under Obama's presidency.
She stated that the frame had changed from "I'm going make that change by being someone who seeks opportunities to work across all the aisle" to "I'm going disrupt the institutions that allow the other side to prevail."
However, Democrats aren't as open to disrupting an institution by coming to Congress than Republicans.
Anderson stated, "It is striking that although the Democratic Party performs better among younger voters but they don't seem like to have cornered market for elevating younger candidates."
Litman says this is where Democrats are having a problem. She points out the age gap among House leaders in each party.
Litman stated that there is no incentive for Congress's older members to step aside to let younger people lead. "Because the longer you serve, you are more likely to be promoted within a committee."
Republicans are now elevating younger members, unlike the Democratic party. Stefanik, who was elected Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference last year, has moved up in the GOP ranks and brought the average age of GOP leaders down to 55.
The Democratic side is still missing millennial trailblazers, with the average age of 71.
Anderson argues that the age gap between the parties is a sign of a lack of leadership.
She stated that she doesn't believe either party has an advantage in elevating Generation Z voices to elected office. This is despite the fact that Democrats have an advantage among voters at the poll box.
Although both Republican and Democratic prospects for future Gen Z members are still uncertain, the inaugural class that ran this midterm cycle is moving towards their primaries.
Reed's matchup in Missouri is scheduled for Aug. 1. Frost's in Florida will be Aug. 23 while Frost's is in Florida on Aug. 23. Leavitt's New Hampshire will be Sept. 13.