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She could be the first Gen Z woman in Congress...
As more Gen Z candidates launch campaigns for Congress, it's becoming abundantly clear that a generation shaped by crisis is sick and tired of waiting for change.
Cheyenne Hunt is a 25-year-old Democrat running for Congress in California’s 45th district. The attorney, advocate, and TikToker, could be the first Gen Z woman elected to the chamber. This week, she joined The Up and Up to talk about her campaign.
Here are some snip-its from our conversation, edited lightly and condensed for brevity, as well as some thoughts about the similarities in how Gen Z candidates are talking about their campaigns for Congress (so far).
RJ: Why are you running for Congress?
CH: “I think any young person will tell you, particularly any young woman will tell you, that we can't afford to wait. There's definitely a sentiment when it comes to young women in particular, where, you know, we announce that we're going to do something bold and ambitious, and the response is usually something along the lines of, ‘Wait your turn,’ or, ‘You haven't earned it,’ or ‘You haven't paid your dues.’ But we're in a world right now where women in particular and young people are looking at an economic situation and environmental situation, a situation with regards to our bodily autonomy, that is truly a ticking time bomb and we are sliding down a very dangerous and slippery slope… The status quo in Washington needs to be shaken up because they are not doing enough to ensure that future generations are protected and are set up for success.”
When it comes to priority issues, Hunt stresses reproductive healthcare access and women’s bodily autonomy, the economy and cost of living, and preserving US democracy — she described basic democratic principles as necessary first in order to achieve all the other issues she hopes to address with her campaign.
RJ: You could be the first Gen Z woman in Congress. What would that mean to you?
CH: “Progress… Young women in particular are so readily dismissed, I think even more so than young men in this society, as you know, being too eager, being too bossy.”
Today’s young Americans are the first in 50 years to grow up without the federally protected right to an abortion. That has an impact, Hunt said. She believes there should be more young women, in particular, in the chamber.
Hunt said that not only does she have “fresh ideas” and “a fresh face,” but she’s also qualified for the position.
While in law school, Hunt spent time on Capitol Hill as a law clerk for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, clerking for the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump. Hunt also formerly worked as a Big Tech Accountability Advocate for Public Citizen, where she spent time thinking about how to hold social media companies accountable for the impact their platforms have on the lives of young Americans.
CH: “Our generation is the first generation to have ever grown up and experience what it's like to live entirely online, and to feel the side effects of an unregulated social media environment and to feel the unmitigated effects of that on our mental health and wellbeing. And also having our data collected, used against us by monopolistic corporations that seek to hold our attention and sell us things,” Hunt said.
She believes there should be more US representatives who have experience both growing up with and thinking about the effects of social media.
If you’ve ever watched a Congressional hearing on social media (ex. the 2023 congressional TikTok hearing, which one TikToker called “the most boomer thing I have ever seen” or the 2021 Senate committee hearing during which Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked Facebook to end “Finsta”), you might think that, too.
CH: “Working on that kind of legislation as well has been a big part of my background. And it's definitely a big part of expertise that I think is missing in Congress,” Hunt said, adding that she believes Congress could benefit from folks with first hand ”perspective” and “knowledge to understand the technology” in order to “properly regulate” it.
So far, all the Gen Zers running for office (no matter what party they belong to) are saying the same thing: there’s a dire need for change or our generation won’t have a livable future. Today’s youngest candidates seem to believe that their unique perspective, having grown up amidst these crises, gives them the ammunition to tackle them.
Like other members of Gen Z who have run or are currently running for federal, state, and local seats, Hunt’s message is one of urgency. With words similar to those spoken by Rep. Maxwell Frost when he was running for Congress and now Maryland Del. Joe Vogel (another Gen Zer running for the chamber), Hunt is adamant that there’s no time to waste.
CH: “There's a lot of different realities now that are pretty unprecedented and that are really urgent,” she said. “We're up against this crushing economic situation that is really limiting to the future, not just to the young people, but of any kind of working class family in this country. We’re in a situation where we're looking at catastrophic environmental damage being done. I mean, you just have to talk to somebody on the East Coast right now to hear about what this apocalyptic scene is like, as climate change ravages our environment and we deal with wildfires… and we are at this intersection of what the future of human rights are going to look like, and the future of developing technologies that remain unregulated. How we really approach that and the choice to jump in or not, is going to determine the future of democracy… Gen Z was born into these issues, all of them, and so if not us, who?”
Youth vote in the news 🗞
Is Gen Z coming for the GOP?, Ronald Brownstein for The Atlantic
GOP’s booming support for guns is turning off millennial, Gen Z Republicans, Juan Perez Jr. for Politico
Millennials Just Keep Voting, David Leonhardt for The New York Times