A 25-year-old Florida man with Cuban roots running on a platform of more gun laws, better health care and an improved focus on environmental justice might be headed to Congress. CBS News projects that Maxwell Frost, who ran for a House seat in Florida's 10th Congressional District, dominated a crowded Democraticwith more than 34% of the votes.
He's set to run against Republican Calvin Wimbish in the November election, in a district that is considered a Democratic stronghold. If he heads to Washington in January to take the seat vacated by Val Demings, he would be the first member of Gen Z to become a member of Congress. According to Politico, he would also be the only Afro-Cubano in Congress.
Politico, which also reports he's never held office before and has yet to finish college, spoke to Frost ahead of Tuesday's election about why he got into politics and what he hopes to accomplish.
"I quit my job to do this. I drive Uber to pay my bills. It's a sacrifice, to be honest," Frost told the publication. "But I'm doing it because I can't imagine myself not doing anything but fixing the problems we have right now."
Frost, whose grandmother came to Florida from Cuba "with only a suitcase and no money" during the 1960s Freedom Flights, according to his website, ran on a progressive platform focused on expanding Medicare, ending gun violence, improving housing affordability, sustainable and affordable transit, environmental justice and the climate crisis. He also promised to focus on the nation's pandemic preparedness by pushing for better and more affordable vaccines, tests and prevention strategies.
"We won because of our message: Love. That no matter who you are, you deserve healthcare, a livable wage, and to live free from gun violence," Frost tweeted on Tuesday night. "We made history tonight. Thank you so much, Orlando."
Frost won with the support of significant progressives figures including Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom he used to work for, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, CBS News' Caitlin Huey-Burns said Tuesday.
"We've been talking a lot about these moderates winning against progressives. This is kind of a flip of that dynamic, and also going to make history, likely," she said.
Florida, though a swing state, has recently leaned much more red than blue. Frost told Huey-Burns on Wednesday that a lot of that has to do with the political party's messaging.
"We need messaging that's inclusive of everyone. Our campaign isn't about blue versus red or Democrats versus Republicans," he said. "It's about the people versus the problem. We talk about love a lot on this campaign – the fact that if you love somebody, you want them to have health care, you want to live in a community free of gun violence, you want them to have a clean environment and all the things they need to live their lives with their families."
When asked about the current administration, Frost says that President Biden is "doing a good job." He noted the president's action on Wednesday to cancel up to $20,000 of loan debt for students in the U.S. but said "we need more."
"A lot of folks look at the student loan debt problem and blame young people. They say we're living beyond our means," Frost said. "But we know the truth: it's not that. It's not that we're living beyond our means, it's that we've been denied the means to live."
"I'm excited to go to D.C. and fight with him and the democrats for even more and fight for the world that we deserve and the world that we want."
His win was celebrated by fellow progressives of his generation, with many heralding it as a collective victory.
"Florida just did with [sic] almost everybody in the establishment thought impossible," gun law activist and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg tweeted. "Elect Maxwell Frost a 25-year-old progressive activist to congress. Never underestimate the power of pissed off young people."
A video of Frost's election watch party shows him surrounded by and celebrating with dozens of other young adults.
Frost isn't the only one of his generation aiming for Capitol Hill. According to the nonpartisan and nonprofit political finance tracking group Open Secrets, there are at least two other Gen Z'ers running in 2022: New Hampshire state representative Tim Baxter and Karoline Leavitt are fighting to win the Republican primary for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District. Raymond Reed also ran for Congress in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District earlier this month, but did not make it through the primary.
Frost told CBS News that the young adults of his generation running for office this election cycle are doing so because they are just now getting old enough to be part of the political process "in a real way."
"I remember being in elementary school, looking at the news and seeing a bunch of people sleeping outside of Wall Street and hearing something about 'wealth and equality,' and then I'd grow up more and go through more shooting drills than I did fire drills" he said. "...And the reason Gen Z is getting involved so young and early is because we see the world for how it is right now and the question we're asking is, 'Why haven't these problems been solved?"
His generation is also known for being "a bit stubborn," he said, but they are using that to their advantage.
"Now we're being stubborn about the world we want to live in," he said. "We want a world where our kids can thrive, and now we're going to vote, we're going to run for office, we're going to do what needs to be done to be sure that our voices are heard."
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