Aug 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Axios interview: Gen Z's Maxwell Frost

Maxwell Frost in 2021 speaks at a podium where a sign reads "Rally to Save Protesting."
Maxwell Frost in 2021. Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Fresh from victory in a crowded Democratic primary for Florida's 10th Congressional District, Maxwell Frost, 25 — who's poised to become the first Gen Z member of Congress — is already talking about his plans to elevate a new generation of candidates to national, state and local office.

Why it matters: Combined, millennials (born 1981-96) and Gen Z (born 1997-2012) make up roughly a third of the 2020 electorate. But their representation in Congress has yet to catch up.

  • Millennials comprise just 7% of the 117th Congress.
  • 2022 is the first election cycle in which Gen Z candidates are old enough to meet the age 25 eligibility requirement to run for the House.

What they're saying: "I'm the first; I'm definitely not going to be the last," Frost told Axios in a telephone interview days after his comfortable win in a 10-candidate field.

  • "I will be very involved in the political side of things and making sure that we have ... not just young people, but just a whole new generation of people, saying, 'Hey, you know what? I can run for office,'" Frost said. "Not just Congress, either. Like, school board — you know? County commission. Everything like that."

The political novice hasn't finished college but organized for the ACLU and March for Our Lives. He drove for Uber while campaigning.

  • Backed by high-profile progressives including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Frost defeated seasoned rivals, including state Sen. Randolph Bracy and former U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown. Incumbent Rep. Val Demings is running for Senate.
  • Despite outraising his nearest opponent more than 2-to-1, with $1.5 million as of August, Frost told Axios his victory was anything but a sure bet. "I know what it means to run for office with no money in the bank and no support at first," he said.
  • Frost, who is Afro-Cuban, will face Calvin Wimbish, 72, a Black Republican conservative activist and retired Army Green Beret, in November. The district is solidly Democratic, making Frost the heavy favorite.

The intrigue: Frost believes his generation has a higher threshold for shock when it comes to politicians' personal lives or social media exposure.

Consider recent stories that have dogged younger politicians like Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) or Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

  • Frost said there is “a sense of truth” to Cawthorn’s case that many of his colleagues wouldn’t be in office if they had grown up in the digital age, though he called Cawthorn's political stances "disqualifying."
  • The controversy over leaked videos that showed Cawthorn in sexually explicit situations is "not really what bothered me about him."
  • During his own primary-night victory party, Frost recalled, "I was dancing on stage, and some of the news outlets were like: 'Oh look, he's dancing, that's interesting!' And in my head, I'm like, I don't really see that."

The bottom line: Frost doesn't necessarily see himself as a disruptor in the mold of the "Squad," but positions himself with young progressives who want a more pugnacious Democratic Party.

  • "We should not arrive at the table at the compromise already," he said. "There are going to be times for compromise ... what I'm saying is, let's not lose vision of the North Star."
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