IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
October 13, 2022 6:00 AM EDT

Maxwell Frost thanks his Uber driver and hustles up the steps of the Cannon building on Capitol Hill. Rushing through security, he thinks he passes Madison Cawthorn on his way to meet with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The moment mirrors his own journey: a few months ago, Frost was an Uber driver; now, he’s on track to eclipse Cawthorn and Ocasio Cortez as the youngest member of Congress.

“It still hasn’t fully hit,” he says. “It hits a little bit more every day.”

Frost, who in August won the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 10th district, a safe Democratic seat, is a 25-year-old March for Our Lives organizer who will likely be the first solidly Gen Z member of Congress (Cawthorn, the controversial North Carolina Republican who lost his nomination, was born in 1995, on the cusp between millennials and Gen Z.) In the weeks since he won his primary, Frost has heard from everyone from Speaker Nancy ­Pelosi, who congratulated him on his win, to Senator Bernie Sanders, who advised him not to ignore constituent services.

Frost is heavily favored to win the general election in November 2022 (Devin Christopher for TIME)
Frost is heavily favored to win the general election in November 2022
Devin Christopher for TIME

Frost, an Afro-Cuban who was adopted at birth by a teacher and a musician, says he plans to focus on issues like student debt, gun violence, climate change, and racial and economic justice, all areas where his position is informed by his own experience. He remembers being a young Black boy in Florida when Trayvon Martin was killed; going through active-­shooter drills at school and organizing with March for Our Lives; and watching the Occupy Wall Street protests on TV.

“We look at everything that’s happened over the past two decades and have to remember that there’s a whole generation growing up during all of it, learning about the world, learning who they are, learning what they want to do,” he says. “Growing up through that really changes the way you see the world and the way the world sees you.”

Frost knows that young people aren’t the only ones who care about issues like gun violence and climate change, but he believes that his youth gives him an impatience to make change that his elders lack. He plans to immediately sign on to bills for universal background checks and the Freedom to Vote Act, and to use his platform to apply public pressure to some of his future colleagues. “I think the biggest generational divide I see isn’t necessarily the issues—it’s the urgency of these things,” he says. “How quickly do they get done?”

Since his win, he’s been flooded with messages from supporters inspired by the idea of generational change in Congress. But Frost thinks real change is bigger than him alone. “I’m not a savior, at all,” he says. “It needs to be all of us working together to build the world that we want to build, to get the bold transformational change we need.”

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

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