Democrats are launching a political group aimed at recruiting and supporting Gen Z and Millennial candidates to run for office as the party looks to hone in on a demographic that played a decisive role in last year’s midterms.
March For Our Lives co-founder David Hogg and Kevin Lata, Rep. Maxwell Frost’s (D-Fla.) campaign manager, on Wednesday launched Leaders We Deserve, which aims to recruit Gen Z and Millennial candidates to run for state legislature and Congress.
The group brands itself as an “EMILY’s List for young people” and is looking to support between 15 and 30 state legislature candidates aged 30 years and younger in addition to congressional candidates at or under 35 years old. The group’s efforts will be coordinated through a PAC and a super PAC.
In an interview with The Hill, Hogg explained that the group will be primarily focused on running candidates at the state legislature level.
“Although Congress is very attractive and gets a lot of news, that’s not where most of these laws are being passed. We’re seeing ‘Don’t Say Gay; laws being passed. We’re seeing anti-trans bills being passed. We’re seeing abortion bans being passed across the country,” Hogg said, referring to legislation critics have used to refer to a bill Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed banning instruction of gender identity and sexuality orientation in the classroom.
“We’re seeing permitless carry be passed across the country, and it’s not in Congress necessarily that that’s happening the most. It’s in state legislatures,” Hogg added.
Hogg and Lata didn’t share any names of candidates the group is endorsing so far, but Lata explained that the group is expected to roll out its first endorsements in the next month or so.
“We’re focusing on open blue seat primaries. So primaries that are basically D+10, where there’s a vacancy and a chance for a young person to run for office,” Hogg told The Hill. “After we work in those primaries, we’ll go to more competitive races in these state legislatures in places like Florida, Texas, Arizona and Georgia to help elect young people that are running in more competitive general election races.”
The political group will run independent expenditures on the candidates’ behalf, Lata explained, adding that the group will also be focused on helping candidates navigate the process of running for political office.
“When you first run for office, it is very hard … Running for office is not like anything else. And when you’re a young person, it’s even harder because you don’t always have like all the political connections, all the donor connections. And so the idea is … like going in and helping out with the mechanics, the fundamentals of the race,” Lata said.
Leaders We Deserve already has some Democratic institutional support. Among those sitting on the group’s advisory board are Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Frost; Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.); President Biden’s 2020 youth pollster, John Della Volpe, and Democratic state legislators Justin Jones in Tennessee and Sarah McBride in Delaware, among others.
The group’s emphasis on Gen Z and Millennials comes as the two voting groups played a crucial role for Democrats last cycle as the party maintained its Senate majority and narrowly lost its House majority.
Recent polling has shown a decrease in the percentage of young voters identifying as Democrat as polling also shows an uptick in young voters who identify as independent or unaffiliated – a potential warning sign for the party who will need to capture the critical voting bloc going into 2024.
But Hogg and Lata see potential for Millennials and Gen Z beyond a critical voting bloc – one, they say, that could play a role in shifting legislative majorities in red states.
“If I was to attribute it to an investing analogy, I guess, would be [Republicans] tried to play the S&P 500 in making change where their short term returns are smaller, but over time, they become bigger and more consistent, whereas liberals tend to focus more on being emotional investors,” Hogg said, referring to how the parties invest in state legislature races.
“Every cycle, I see this over and over again, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God. Let’s talk about Michigan. Let’s talk about Pennsylvania,'” Hogg continued. “And it is very important that we talk about those places. But it’s also important that we talk about the places 10 years from now that could flip [if] we started investing today in young people.”