Maxwell Frost wants to tell Democrats to not write off Florida simply as the state of Ron DeSantis and other Republicans.
The 25-year-old activist famously confronted the governor a few months ago about gun violence, to which Mr DeSantis – who has become the Republican Party’s golden boy for keeping Florida open during the Covid-19 pandemic – responded by saying “nobody wants to hear from you”.
But Mr DeSantis’s remarks notwithstanding, it turned out that some Floridians did want to hear from him. Mr Frost won the Democratic primary for Florida’s 10th District to replace Representative Val Demings, who is running to challenge Senator Marco Rubio in August. Then on Tuesday 8 November, he won the general election.
The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, meaning that a primary victory all but guaranteed Mr Frost will be heading to Congress.
All of this despite the fact that he put his education on pause and worked as an Uber driver to make ends meet. Mr Frost will also be the first Generation Z Member of Congress when he heads to Washington next year.
“Running to be the first Gen Z member of congress isn’t the first reason I ran but that is an important part of the story,” he told The Independent last month after his primary victory. To make ends meet, he worked as an Uber driver during the campaign and has yet to finish college, though he said he plans to finish.
“I just represent a different type of candidate,” he said. “This shows we need the country not to count people out.”
Despite being a newcomer as a candidate, Mr Frost is not a neophyte in the political realm. He worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2020. But it was his time working as the national organising director for March For Our Lives, which formed after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School In Parkland, Florida, that elevated him to national prominence.
“It was one of the most important things to happen in our country’s history,” he said. Mr Frost said that the tragedy showed that people deserved better than enduring gun violence. His victory also came on the heels of Congress passing and President Joe Biden signing the first piece of gun legislation in 28 years.
“A lot of times, movements, you don’t see the fruits of the movement right away,” he said. “You are talking about a whole new generation. We’ve just gotten old enough to vote. A movement will spark a seed that takes time to grow and that’s OK.”
Assuming he prevails in November, in addition to being the first Gen Z member of Congress, Mr Frost will also be the first Afro-Cuban member, which he says is an antidote to people’s preconceived notions.
“I want to say that I think the Cuban voices we are used to are conservative,” he said. Indeed, many of the most outspoken conservative voices from Florida – such as Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Maria Elvira Salazar – are Cuban-American.
Indeed, in 2020, former president Donald Trump shocked many Democrats when he improved his margins in largely Cuban-American south Florida on the message of opposing socialism. But Mr Frost said it’s important to have representation like him to show how diverse the Hispanic experience is in the United States.
“There’s still folks out there who don’t understand,” he said, noting how some people seeing Black or Latino as a binary. “You’re either Black or Latino.”
When asked which members might serve as a template for his work in Congress, he cited Representatives Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Mondaire Jones of New York and Barbara Lee of California. He also expressed admiration for Representative Lucy McBath, who got involved in politics after a white man fatally shot her son Jordan Davis, who was Black.
Unsurprisingly, he also cited Mr Sanders, given his work for the Vermont Independent senator, saying he “opened my eyes” to wealth inequality. Mr Frost also volunteered for Mr Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign in 2015.
Mr Frost’s entry into Congress comes as many Democrats are thinking of writing off Florida as it becomes more securely Republican. But Mr Frost wants people to keep competing in the state. The same evening that he won, Mr DeSantis overwhelmingly won re-election, as did Mr Rubio.
But Mr Frost has a mesage for Democrats.
“Don’t give up on us. Don’t give up in Florida. People see people like DeSantis,” he said. “They elected the first Gen Z Afro Cuban organiser in Congress.”
This article was originally published on 7 September
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