In a push to galvanize young Democrats to run for office, a political action committee focused on electing young, down-ballot candidates in swing districts announced Monday a national campaign to support 50 millennial and Gen Z candidates under the age of 45 ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The group, the Next 50, also launched a leadership council comprised of Democratic politicians and organizers to advise candidates.
The council includes New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas, Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, former Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer, former South Carolina state Rep. Bakari Sellers, former Stockton, California, Mayor Michael Tubbs, AAPI organizer Linh Nguyen and civil rights activist Nialah Edari. (Sellers is a CNN political commentator.)
The Next 50’s primary goal is to bolster young candidates who may shy out of running because they fear they lack the adequate financial resources or support network to do so, Zak Malamed, the group’s 27-year-old co-founder, told CNN.
“The first question prospective candidates are often asked by the Democratic Party before they run is: ‘How much can you raise from your personal network?’” Malamed said. He noted that the financial burden of launching a campaign can serve as a roadblock for many potential candidates.
“The Next 50 is committed to removing barriers to public service and ensuring that running for office or launching an organizing effort in a competitive district is not restricted by the power of a person’s network or how much money they have access to,” he said.
As part of its pilot program ahead of the 2020 election, The Next 50 endorsed 15 down-ballot candidates, all of whom were in swing districts and 13 of whom were in swing states. Only two of The Next 50’s first batch of endorsements won their elections in November, and a third won a local race last month. According to Malamed, all of the candidates plan to run for office again.
For its next round, the Next 50 will work with its leadership council to endorse candidates primarily in states with competitive gubernatorial or US Senate races, Malamed said. The group has already spoken with a number of donors, who pledged to give or raise $1 million to support the group’s endorsed candidates in 2022.
The goal is to find candidates who are representative of the country, Tubbs said.
While he was a 21-year-old senior in college, Tubbs – who said he had to quit his college job and only had two suits at the time – ran for city council. He won the race and was elected to city council at 22.
“I realized at the time there is a huge barrier for entry for folks with huge passion but maybe not the network,” Tubbs, who grew up in poverty and attended Stanford University, told CNN, adding he was grateful for Stanford’s network.
Just a few years later, at 26, he became the first African American mayor of Stockton.
With The Next 50, Tubbs says he hopes to help candidates who are “willing to shake the table” campaign and govern.
“The status quo has a lot of friends,” Tubbs said. “Every time you do something different or new and make change, there will be conflict.”
In her role on the leadership council, Finkenauer, who first ran for local office in Iowa at age 24 and then for US Congress at 28, said she hopes to provide guidance to young candidates looking to launch their own campaigns.
“When I ran, there was no handbook,” Finkenauer said.