Leaders We Deserve, the new youth-led political action committee co-founded by David Hogg, isn’t looking to produce a blue wave in the next election. Instead, the PAC is seeking to get more young progressive and movement leaders elected at the state level—a goal it recognizes will take time.
Hogg, who co-founded March for Our Lives after surviving the 2018 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, in which 17 people died, told Newsweek his PAC is playing the long game when it comes to elections.
“We’re not expecting the Florida state Legislature to flip in this election cycle or the next one,” he said. “This is about a long-term investment in the future of our states.”
As the 2024 elections draw increasing attention, the presidential race and congressional campaigns have dominated much of U.S. politics. Hogg and his co-founder, Kevin Lata, however, are focused on various state races across the nation. They’re targeting Republican-controlled legislatures in Florida, Texas and Arizona by endorsing progressive candidates under 30 in open-seat primaries. Notably, Lata worked as the campaign manager for Representative Maxwell Frost, who became the first Gen Z member of Congress after his 2022 midterms victory in Florida.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here,” Hogg said. “What we’re trying to do is take the most charismatic and powerful young people from our generation and these movements over recent years and bring them into office where there are open seats and we do not have to challenge an incumbent Democrat.”
He continued: “A lot of these baby boomers are retiring from running for political office or are running for higher office, and it offers our generation the opportunity to come into power.”
Over the past few years, Gen Z has emerged as one of the most politically active generations, protesting and organizing as they speak out about climate change inaction, abortion rights, racial injustice and gun safety. Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of youth protesters attended the first March for Our Lives, making it one of the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War and starting a new effort for gun control legislation in the U.S.
Gun control activists have been disappointed in the lack of change following the widespread protests. Hogg acknowledged this and said it is critical to bridge the disconnect between young leaders’ efforts in progressive movements and new legislation.
By backing activists as viable officeholders, Hogg said, the Democratic Party has an opportunity to reap rewards for years since this would build party loyalty among Gen Z as its members reach voting age.
“What we’re trying to do here is bring that new voice into politics, bring these movements into politics,” Hogg said. “People like Maxwell Frost. His job before being a member of Congress was being March for Our Lives’ first national organizing director.
“We can’t just remain on the outside [of politics] forever. If we want to make real systemic change, we have to get involved now and as soon as possible on the inside,” he said.
The 23-year-old Harvard graduate said that by getting young progressive candidates elected, Democrats can show many of the people who have been at the forefront of these social movements that “they are represented, they are heard and there is a party that’s fighting for them on the inside.”
Each election cycle, millions of young Americans become newly eligible to vote. Between the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 midterms, more than 8 million Americans turned 18. Early data about this voting bloc suggests that Gen Z voters overwhelmingly support Democrats. In the 2022 election, younger voters supported Democrats over Republicans by 27 points. In 2020, Gen Z favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a margin of 20 points.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Gen Z voters have pledged loyalty to either party. This year’s Harvard Youth Poll found that a plurality of voters among 18- to 29-year-olds identify as independents, 40 percent. By comparison, 35 percent said they identify as Democrats and 24 percent as Republicans.
Leaders We Deserve endorsed its first candidate last week, throwing its support behind 27-year-old Averie Bishop in her race for Texas’ House District 112. Last year, the TikTok influencer and legal advocate became the first Asian contestant to become Miss Texas in the pageant’s 85-year history. If she unseats Republican state Representative Angie Chen Button, Bishop would be the first Filipino American to serve in the Legislature.
While Hogg’s PAC is focused on championing young candidates, it is not taking aim at older Democrats like President Joe Biden, whose age has raised concerns as he seeks a second term. At 78, Biden is the oldest president to be inaugurated in U.S. history. If he wins reelection next year, he will be 82 at the start of his next term.
Many have questioned whether Biden has the mental and physical fitness to be president for another four years, pointing to tumbles he’s taken and political gaffes he’s made during public speeches. But Hogg insists that Biden is the “most effective president in my lifetime.”
“The reason he’s been so effective is because he started in the Senate when he was 29 years old,” Hogg said. “We are not against older people being in office. We just want young people to be in office serving alongside them. We believe in the power of an intergenerational coalition.”
He continued: “There are generations in office that understand the Cold War anxiety, and there should be people in office who, when they were children, went through school shooter drills and understand the anxiety that comes with that.”
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