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Gen Z Candidate Maxwell Frost: 'Partner' to LGBTQ+ Community

Maxwell Frost
Courtesy Maxwell Frost for Congress

The Floridian, who could be the first member of Gen Z in Congress, says he's more than an ally.

Views expressed in The Advocate's opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

During the last five years as an adjunct professor at a New York City college, I typically ended our last classes of the semester talking about the students's futures and how they relate to the problems that are confronting our country. "Get involved in your communities" was my swan song advice.

I recall one young woman raising her hand and asking, "What can I really do?" "When you turn 25, run for Congress," I said half-jokingly. Because, personally, I am counting on the next generation to save us from mass shootings, climate change, a rollback of equal rights, and antiquated abortion laws.

Turns out, my wish for fresh faces might just be starting to come true.

I first became aware of Maxwell Frost last Tuesday, when Politico posted a story about his candidacy in the Democratic primary for Florida's 10th Congressional District. So, as any political junkie would do, that night as the primary results were coming in, I was furiously checking on New York's Jerry Nadler-Carolyn Maloney contest, Pat Ryan's bellwether special election in upstate New York, and Frost's efforts in Florida.

I didn't expect Frost to win, and that's probably because I've turned into a cynical man of a certain age who assumed that one of the more prominent candidates in the race, who included state Sen. Randolph Bracy and former U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Corinne Brown, would win over this relatively unknown and young upstart. They were all vying to fill the seat left by Rep. Val Demings, who won the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat and will try to oust Marco Rubio.

Thank God I was wrong about Frost.

He topped the field, and because the district is predominantly Democratic, he is likely to become the first of his generation -- Gen Z -- in Congress.

Frost has already built up quite a resume as a community activist. He has worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and the March for Our Lives during his young career. He made some news in June when he and a group of gun control advocates disrupted an event where Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was speaking after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Frost interrupted DeSantis, demanding action on gun violence. DeSantis sarcastically responded to Frost by saying, "Nobody wants to hear from you."

Well, I have a little message for DeSantis. It appears that many people want to hear what Frost has to say, and I was one of them, so I reached out.

Frost is the man of the moment and has been all over the news since his surprising and age-shattering victory on Tuesday. I spoke to him before he appeared with Joy Reid on MSNBC's The ReidOut, and I asked him what life has been like for him during the last few crazy days since his victory. "It's been incredible," he said. "I think we all just feel really, really good with what happened. What it means is that people responded to our platform and our messages. Now we must make sure we win the general election. I don't think any of us are taking anything for granted. We have a lot of work to do."

Working hard is nothing new for Frost. He has been busy as an activist since he was a teenager. The ACLU recognized his talents early and grabbed him right after he graduated from his high school. Since then, he's been busy earning his college degree online while diving headfirst into his work as a community organizer.

And because running for office does not pay a wage, Frost worked as an Uber driver to pay the bills while he campaigned. Frost is not wealthy, he's not well-connected, he doesn't have his degree (yet), he's never held public office (not even local), and he's 25. However, when you speak to him, he comes across as experienced, poised, well-spoken, and thoroughly knowledgeable on the issues he's most ardent about.

"If I'm lucky enough to represent the 10th District in Congress, there are so many issues that I will want to work hard to help address," he said when I asked him about what's most important to him. "We have to tackle gun violence, which is really what got me into politics after the Pulse and Parkland mass shootings. Something must be done when the leading cause of death for children is guns. That's unacceptable.

"And we must ensure that we work harder and faster to address the climate crisis, which is especially taking its toll on Florida. We need to create clean energy initiatives and alternatives because the cost of not doing anything or doing something minimal is just too great."

When I mentioned that a new NBC poll showed that voters thought the threat to democracy was the most important issue facing the country, Frost agreed. "Yes, we have got to do everything we can to protect our democracy, and that includes protecting the right to vote. When it's easier to buy a gun than it is to vote, we have a problem that needs to be fixed."

Frost had some prominent LGBTQ+ help in his campaign. He credits U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York, who was one of the first gay Black men elected to Congress and who lost his primary last Tuesday, as his mentor. Additionally, gay Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Mark Takano of California went to Florida to campaign for Frost.

While Frost isn't gay, he is an unswerving supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. "I am more than an ally, I am a partner, because it is the right thing to do to support issues like the Equality Act, marriage equality, and trans rights. And the LGBTQ+ community is so vibrant in our district, which includes the Pulse nightclub," he said.

When asked about Florida's "don't say gay" law, Frost was vehement in his response. "It's horrible. It's an atrocity, and it's outrageous that other governors want to pass similar laws in other states. These laws must be overturned. They are dangerous. Honestly, I thought we were over this, but it's awful how some of these Republicans have taken not steps but leaps backwards. We need to make sure that the freedom of our kids is protected."

Frost said he believes he was successful in the primary because his campaign was positive. "We had an optimistic message about love and stressed that people deserve their rights to health care, equality, being free of gun violence, and where everyone belongs in a thriving democracy."

I asked Frost if he had any plans to bring more Gen Zers into the political fold. "I haven't decided, and if I do something, whatever it is, it would be more of bringing in a new generation of legislators, more working-class for example, versus just young people," he said. "New types of politicians. The representatives of this country need to reflect the population, so there should be older legislators, younger ones, Black, brown, gay, straight. Members of Congress should not all be cut from the same mold. "

There's no argument about the fact that Barack Obama was a new type of politician and one who, like Frost, started his career as a community organizer. Does Obama's career trajectory give you any ideas, I slyly asked Frost? "I see what you're getting at, and no," he said with a laugh. "I never had any dreams of being president or even running for office, so this is all new. I think what it goes to show is that being a community organizer is respected work and that you do it with people who share your values. Now I'll just take that same energy and use it toward running a solid general election campaign and hope that I win and get to continue doing the work of the people in Congress."

John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.