Chicago — In the last five years, Gen Z has come of voting age and they tend to be disillusioned with traditional political structures and parties, and are skeptical of mainstream politics. About eight million Gen Z are eligible to vote this year and of that number, 47% are BIPOC. YR Media’s “Control Z: #Vote2024” series examines the impact the young generation will have this election season and how more Gen Z candidates are looking to have a seat at the table.
More Gen Z candidates are taking a shot at running for office this year.
After 2022’s midterms, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) became Congress’s first member belonging to the generation and now at least, two fellow Gen Z Democrats are vying to join him this year in the House.
Cheyenne Hunt, a 26-year-old Democrat and attorney running in California’s 45th District, is one of them.
“Young people, as we’ve gotten more and more involved, are frankly devastated that this is the state of government that we are inheriting — and that we have to really pick up this work and try to put the pieces back together,” Hunt told The Hill.
The climate crisis, democracy and women’s rights are “existential threats” that older generations aren’t addressing with the urgency younger Americans feel, she said.
“Young people are keenly aware of this situation and are jumping in at unprecedented rates because we know we can’t afford to wait,” said Hunt, who will likely go up against incumbent Republican Rep. Michelle Steel. If Hunt wins, she'll be the first woman Gen Z member of Congress.
In Maryland, state Del. Joe Vogel is running to become the first openly LGBTQIA+ member of Gen Z elected to Congress. He got into politics after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook, “frustrated by inaction” on issues like gun violence.
“I think our entire generation is having this moment where we’re channeling that energy and channeling that urgency into having more political representation in terms of the issues,” the 26-year-old said.
Like many Gen Z, Vogel believes younger perspectives are needed in elected office, pointing to projections of climate consequences that could hit by around 2050.
“By 2050, I’m still going to be younger than your average member of Congress,” he said. “So that is a perspective that I think is desperately needed in the halls of Congress.”
A 2022 Tufts study found that the rate of young people seeking elected office had gone up in the previous decade to more than 20% of youth who said they’d consider running for office. That’s why around 57% of Americans aged 18 to 34 say they’re “extremely likely” to vote this year, according to Tufts.
“There is an appetite. There’s a hunger from folks of all generations … for a new generation of leaders, not just because we’re younger, but because we offer a new style of politics,” Vogel said.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how old you are. The status quo is holding everyone back,” he added.
Noah Johnson (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow him on X: @noahwritestoo.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett