Maxwell Frost Isn't Running Just To Be The First Gen Zer In Congress

Frost, a survivor of gun violence, has pledged to be an advocate on gun reform if he wins his race in November.

Maxwell Frost is not your typical candidate.

The 25-year-old Democrat running in Florida’s 10th Congressional District is likely to be the first Gen Z member of Congress — a term used to refer to those born between 1997 and 2012.

But Frost rejects his age is the only thing setting him apart.

“I didn’t decide to run to be the first Gen Z member of Congress,” he told HuffPost.

Driven By Activism

A survivor of gun violence, Frost worked as National Organizing Director at March for Our Lives — a youth-led movement aimed at ending the gun epidemic in the U.S. created after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida — for two years before he decided to run for office.

But his activism started while he was still in school 10 years ago, following the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Gun violence, which has been a major focus of his campaign, “is an issue that is solvable that we’ve seen the least amount of progress on,” Frost explained.

Frost has pledged to be an advocate for gun reform and work to get money into communities across the country to prevent shootings before they even start, if elected. His district is solidly Democratic.

Frost said gun regulation is the first step. He explained that the majority of gun crimes in America are born out of the perpetrator’s living conditions, noting that people experiencing difficult circumstances often feel that using a gun could help them get ahead. The Florida Democrat believes improving people’s standard of living, including access to health care, is key in fighting gun violence.

“The goal here should be to build a world where people don’t feel the need to use a gun to solve their problems in the first place,” Frost, who supports “Medicare for All,” said.

What Prompted His Run

Frost won his primary contest in August among a crowded field of 10 candidates running to succeed incumbent Val Demings, the Democrat challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio this election season.

Local organizers approached Frost in January 2021 to encourage him to run, but he initially rejected their request, attributing his hesitation, in part, to “internalized ageism.”

Frost, who is Afro-Cuban and was adopted at birth by a musician and a special education teacher, shared the moment that changed his mind.

“What changed everything for me was connecting with my biological mother, learning about her story, learning about the things she had been through,” he said.

As Frost writes on his campaign website, she “was caught in a cycle of drugs, crime, and violence while pregnant. She didn’t have healthcare and wasn’t able to see a doctor even once.”

During a phone call with his biological mother, Frost learned he had multiple siblings and that she was forced to give him up because she wasn’t able to raise another child.

She, along with his adoptive mother who migrated to the U.S. from Cuba in the 1960s, influenced his decision to run. Another contributing factor was his community, which was excited about having a young, progressive candidate to support.

The Role Of Money

But Frost says he can’t create change alone.

“It’s never about one person. It’s always about a movement,” Frost told HuffPost.

He has donated money to 20 candidates across the country and supported a number of down-ballot candidates in Central Florida.

“We need to build a Congress that looks like the country, so I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to get good candidates in,” he said.

The young Democrat, who has worked on political campaigns since he graduated from high school and was an organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union before joining March for Our Lives, opened up about the financial struggles he’s faced as a candidate. He ran out of money in the first three months of his campaign and had to work as an Uber driver to pay his bills.

“As a young person who just doesn’t have a lot of money, I’ve been living literally paycheck to paycheck this entire year and at times didn’t have money to feed myself,” Frost said.

Frost says to have a better democracy, there should be more poor and working-class candidates in the political system.

Running As A Gen Z Candidate

Frost is keen to dispel the myth that young people are disenfranchised with politics, pointing to the fact that Gen Zers are running for office earlier than older generations did. He also expects young voter turnout to continue rising as more Gen Z members reach voting age.

The 2020 presidential election saw 53% turnout in young voters age 18 to 29 years old, according to The Washington Post, but a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found only 49% of those 19 to 29 years old are “absolutely certain to vote” in this year’s midterm elections.

Frost said his organizing at March for Our Lives taught him “young people want something to vote for, not against,” adding that many campaigns don’t even bother to reach out to voters of his generation.

He hopes his campaign, which is built on a message of love, will help inspire voters to turn out to the polls. Love, he said, is what connects his legislative priorities for office: ending gun violence, protecting U.S. democracy by enacting bold election reform and addressing the climate crisis.

“When you love somebody, you want them to have health care, housing, you want them to be safe, free of gun violence,” he said.

Frost’s state was recently tested by Hurricane Ian, which killed at least 127 people, ABC News reported citing local officials. He says Ian exposed climate inequality, meaning that poor communities, people of color and students were the ones to bear the disproportionate impact of the hurricane.

“Just because you’re poor, just because you’re Black, just because you’re Latino does not mean you should live in a place where you have a higher percent chance of dying in a hurricane or losing everything that you own,” he told HuffPost.

He emphasized the importance of building climate-friendly infrastructure in Florida, warning, “there will be another hurricane, and it will be bad.”

“I don’t like to be an alarmist. But, I mean, this is an existential problem,” he said.

Plans For The Future

If elected, Frost will join the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Frost said he hasn’t yet committed to joining any other groups, including the “Squad,” a group of young progressive lawmakers in the House.

Still, he is very excited to work with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who made history by defeating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in 2018, becoming the youngest woman elected to Congress.

AOC is part of the reason why I decided to run. I think her election really gave permission to young people to do it,” he said.

He also said he admires Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who slept on the steps of the Capitol to protest the end of the federal eviction moratorium.

“What’s more noble than that?” he asked.

Finding Meaning In Music

Apart from a political candidate and organizer, Frost also identifies as a musician. He went to an arts middle and high school, and was part of a salsa band named “Seguro Que Si” that performed at former President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

“Playing music, listening to music, going to concerts is just a huge part of my life,” he said.

Music, though, is not a self-care ritual for Frost. It is also a big part of his campaign.

Last week, his campaign rented a flatbed truck for Orlando Pride and staged a mobile concert. He played the drums.

Maxwell Frost, a Democratic candidate for Florida's 10th Congressional district, plays the drums during the Pride Parade in Orlando, Florida, on October 15, 2022.
Maxwell Frost, a Democratic candidate for Florida's 10th Congressional district, plays the drums during the Pride Parade in Orlando, Florida, on October 15, 2022.
Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images

Music was also a way of bonding with his father. His dad, who is also a musician, was the one to first introduce him to the art and buy him a drum set.

Frost recalls his dad reassuring him when he cried to music for the first time.

“It really gave me permission to be vulnerable, because of art,” he said. “And I feel like that’s made me into the person I am.”

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community