Two more Gen Zers are running for Congress and youth vote in the news 2/1
The latest Gen Zers to launch campaigns for Congress (in the same Florida district), young Native American voters could play a huge role in Arizona, and more data shows today's teens are anxious.
Two more Gen Z candidates are running for Congress — in the same Florida district. Democrats Sabrina Bousbar, who announced her candidacy this week, and Peter Owen, who launched his campaign at the end of last year, are both vying for the seat currently held by Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna in Florida’s 13th congressional district. The two young candidates share a common belief that their current elected representative does not actually represent their values.
I checked in with both of them this week to learn more. Here’s some of what they had to say, condensed and lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Bousbar, who’s 26 and the daughter of Colombian and Moroccan immigrants, previously served as a senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response. Prior to that, she worked on the Biden Harris 2020 campaign and graduated from Florida State University. Asked what issues are top of mind for her in this election she said: “our fundamental rights as women,” “the climate crisis,” “social security,” and “the affordability crisis.”
Tell me a bit about yourself.
“ I am a public servant, a preparedness and recovery expert, an organizer… Being the daughter of immigrants, my parents taught me the importance of standing up for what you believe in, but also standing up for your community. That led me to help provide direct relief to millions of American children and families and seniors during the global pandemic, supporting communities recovering from mass shootings and natural disasters… with the Maui fires and the shooting that we saw in Maine, I was really able to help with the recovery pieces at my time at the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Why now? what is it about this moment in time that inspired you to run for Congress?
"Our generation really feels that we are on the brink of a moment where we are either too extreme, or too progressive, and there's no one standing up for what's right, [being] bipartisan. And so when it came to this moment, I really want to step up and run because we deserve a Congress that looks like America. We deserve a Congress that is able to bring the issues that our generation is really afraid about, and scared about, and wants to fight for, so that we can prosper [and] so that generations to come can also have a healthy life.”
Talk to me a little bit more about that — do you feel like amongst your friends and peers, that members of our generation are looking for more middle ground?
“What I'm hearing and seeing from people here in the community is that what they love about our generation is that we're willing to have a conversation… our generation is trying to bring back the conversation. And it is okay to agree to disagree. And we need to have the conversation in order to succeed. Because if we don't come together and compromise and get to work, we're not going to get anything done. Government should be working for people.”
What’s missing from the current political conversation that you’d provide a unique perspective on?
“I really think what's missing is the gap of we can get things done, and the government can work for you, and that's something I want to reinforce when I knock on doors, when I talk to voters, that they know I am someone who is going to make sure government works for them. And not just them, but for their future generation.”
Bousbar added that her campaign will lean on young organizers, mobilizers, and door knockers. Her campaign shared a few texts and DM’s she received with admiration from young people in the immediate aftermath of her campaign launch:
Owen, who’s 25, Puerto Rican, and the father of a four month old baby, has worked in banking, insurance, and the legal industry. He gradated from St. Petersburg College in Seminole, Florida. Asked the issues he’s most passionate about, Owen said: “health care, the climate, firearms and abortion.”
How do you see those issues affecting your community?
“With climate change, Pinellas County is a very tourist heavy county and a lot of the cities rely on this tourist industry to be able to feed their family…. and so when climate change gets worse, especially with the rising temperatures, that affects red tide… that really puts a big damper on our tourist industry, which affects those people's livelihood. Firearms — I grew up in this county and a lot of people in my generation have either had a personal experience with a school shooting or know someone that has. I remember being in fifth grade and having to hide in the closet of my choir teacher's classroom because an armed man ran through our campus… Health care, my wife just had a baby. It’s our first kid, she’s four months old and seeing just the costs of that birthing process and then we had to go to the ER for our baby when she was four days old. If we didn't have health insurance, we would have been out of pocket nearly $150,000. And so just the rising cost of health care… And then a woman's right to choose — I believe that that needs to be guarded at all costs and that right is to remain a right. I think abortion is more than than just a women's health care issue… abortion is more than just health care. It affects their finances, their living situation.”
How is the perspective you’d bring to Congress unique? What makes you a good candidate for your community?
“The House of Representatives should be exactly that. It should represent everyone, not just older, wealthy, white men. So me — growing up lower class, being Puerto Rican, and growing up in this district, I understand the struggles that we're facing here because I've lived through those struggles,” Owen said.
“That also ties into my prior work of working in insurance and in banking, as well as in the legal [field]… I did mostly wills and trusts. And so I got to really see how not just younger and middle aged people are struggling, but also how the older generation is struggling when a lot of people just get small social security checks and that's all they have to live on. Banking really kind of ran that point home for me as well by seeing a lot of people who are either in a lower socioeconomic bracket or, again with the people in the older generation, who they get their small check for $1,000 every two weeks. They pull all that out with all of their overdraft, and that's what they have to live on… seeing those struggles and studying policy, I understand the action that needs to be taken to solve these issues.”
When I was talking with Sabrina Bousbar, she mentioned a generational desire to have more conversations down the middle, moving away from extreme partisanship. Is that something you see as a major issue amongst your friends and peers?
“Yes and no. A lot of people my age and my generation don't identify with either side of the aisle. They like to register as a non-party-affiliated. So I definitely think that compromise is vital to moving forward and moving this country forward. But I also think there’s issues that we cannot compromise on such as firearms, healthcare, and a women’s right to choose. I think those are three issues that we need someone up in Washington who will fight for those issues.”
What does it say about the state of what's going on it in your community that you two Gen Zers are running for Congress at this point in time?
“There's just a void of leadership, and there's people that are holding seats that are acting in their best interests. Or they're just fighting hard on their party line… instead of actually fighting for the people in [their] district, and so I think that that's been the major pushing point for a lot of people in Gen Z.”
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Youth vote in the news 2/1
In Arizona, these young Native American voters seize their political power, Ximena Bustillo and Elena Moore for NPR, 2/1
Given Arizona’s electoral significance, the state’s young and native population could play a key role in the 2024 outcome — both at the presidential and congressional level.
“There are young, Native voters deciding how to use their electoral power. But strategists and politicians familiar with organizing Native voters agree: more needs to be done to court this significant voting bloc,” Bustillo and Moore write.
In thinking about outreach, the pair writes, Republican Arizona state Rep. David Cook, said, "Native voters are stereotyped as affiliating with Democrats, leaving votes on the table for the Republican Party.”
"[Republicans] need to get outside their comfort zone and go out and meet those Americans, those Arizonans in this state," Cook told NPR. "That one Native American vote on that reservation, no matter what party, is just as important as my [own] vote."
Should Students Vote for School Boards? The Case for Lower Voting Ages in Local Elections, Evie Blad for Education Week, 1/30
Learning to vote isn’t intuitive, nor is it easy.
In turn, “organizers pushing for a more gradual on-ramp to participation in the electoral process scored a major win this month when Newark, N.J., became the latest city to allow 16-year-olds to vote in local school board elections,” Blad writes.
The push got a boost from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy too. “I know, to some, this proposal may sound unconventional. But voting is a lifelong habit. And studies show that, if a person votes in one election, they are more likely to turn out in the next election,” Murphy said in his January ‘state of the state’ address.
On January 10, Newark’s city council voted to allow 16-year-olds to vote in school board elections, becoming the latest city to allow young people to participate in this way.
“Five cities in Maryland allow 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections under a state law that allows city governments to adopt youth voting policies. Voters in Berkeley and Oakland, Calif., have passed local ballot measures in recent years to allow 16-year-olds to vote in school board elections, but those policies have not yet been enacted,” Blad writes.
Today’s Teenagers: Anxious About Their Futures and Disillusioned by Politicians, Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times, 1/29
A new survey from youth advocacy group Common Sense Media provides fresh data points about young people’s current anxiety. According to the poll, which was framed around the idea that “the 2024 election is already proving to be one of the most consequential for American kids and families,” Common Sense Media’s website says, only one third of 12-17-year-olds surveyed believed “things were going well for children and teenagers today.” Beyond the Common Sense Media survey, previous data from Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation shows that members of Gen Z are more pessimistic about “their current and future lives” than millennials were at the same age.
“Together, the surveys offer an unusually detailed look at the perspectives of teenagers, who are rarely surveyed in high-quality polls,” Cain Miller writes.
When it comes to politics, young people’s current dissatisfaction with the status quo is likely to have a big impact in the 2024 presidential election.
“For young people, the options that have been available to you your entire lifetime have been either Trump or Biden,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, who’s firm Echelon Insights worked on the Common Sense Media survey. “You may be looking at that and saying, ‘No thanks.’”
And my latest: The U.S. Is Run by The Elderly. Here’s How Young People Can Fix It, for Teen Vogue, 1/26
Ahead of the majority of candidate filing deadlines for the 2024 election cycle (which differ by state for local offices), nonpartisan civic engagement organizations Civic Nation and Run For Something Civics are encouraging the next generation of young, diverse leaders to run for office themselves. These groups believe that inspiring more young people to run for down-ballot seats is the best answer to the current misalignment between US elected officials and the electorate.
Last week, both groups celebrated National Run for Office Day, a civic holiday established in 2017 by Run for Something Civics’ parent organization, Run for Something. According to statistics from National Run for Office Day, “More than half of all Americans are millennials or younger, but only 6% of state legislators are 35 or younger. Among state legislators, only 33% are women, 10% are Black, 6% are Latino, and 4% are Asian/Pacific Islander. And only 0.2% of elected officials openly identify as LGBTQIA+.” The National Run for Office Day campaign seeks to remedy that.