When Colin Allred, a 35-year-old former NFL linebacker-turned-congressional candidate, addressed two dozen student volunteers at a rooftop restaurant last week, he promised them that he knows millennials are more than avocado toast-eating social media obsessives.
“People think millennials just tweet … and complain, but you all are living proof that that’s not true,” Allred said. “You are the best part of this party.”
Allred — the newly minted Democratic nominee for a competitive House seat here is part of a swell of young Democratic House candidates hoping to inspire higher turnout among fellow millennials in the midterm elections, when youth voting rates typically decline. At least 20 millennial Democratic candidates are running in battleground districts, a leap over previous cycles that could remake the party’s generational divide.
“I don’t recall a cycle with anything close to this number of younger candidates in recent times,” said Ian Russell, a Democratic consultant who served as the deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Notably, younger candidates who actually have a good shot at winning raising money, running professional campaigns.”
Currently, the average age of a member of 115th Congress nearly 58 years old in the House and nearly 62 years old in the Senate is among the oldest of any Congress in recent history, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The youngest member of Congress, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), will turn 34 in July.
Stefanik was first elected at age 30. No woman has ever been elected to Congress in her 20s, but two 20-something Democrats Sara Jacobs in Southern California and Abby Finkenauer in eastern Iowa are serious contenders running in competitive districts. Illinois’ Lauren Underwood, 31, and Ohio’s Aftab Pureval, 35, have already won primaries to take on sitting GOP incumbents this fall.
“In my almost-decade as a pollster, I’ve had almost no clients younger than me,” said Zac McCrary, a 37-year-old Democratic consultant. “Now I’ve got several this cycle.”
“Right now, the instinct is to look for the antithesis of [President] Donald Trump, and so Democratic primary voters are defaulting toward women, younger rather than older,” McCrary added. “And those young candidates are more difficult targets because they don’t have decades’ worth of opposition research racked up.”