Frost prevailed over more experienced Democrats, including former members of Congress Corrine Brown and Alan Grayson, and state Sen. Randolph Bracy, to secure the nomination. He will be the favorite in November in the reconfigured Orlando area district.
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“I knew going into this thing that we’d be counted out because of my age,” Frost told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday. “And I’ve been counted out a lot of my life because of my age. But I knew that if we stuck to our message, and if we kept doing the work, and we built the movement, we would win.”
He is among the new class of mold-breaking Democratic candidates this year with working-class roots. On his campaign website, he highlights the difficulties faced by his biological mother who gave him up for adoption amid what he describes as “a cycle of drugs, crime, and violence.”
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Frost campaigned on support for Medicare-for-all, demilitarizing the police, legalizing “sex work” and recreational marijuana, expunging all marijuana convictions, and restoring voting rights to the incarcerated.
He was backed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), another liberal lawmaker and author of the Green New Deal, said he was “honored” to support Frost.
“We need to listen to young people and let them lead. That’s when we’ll get a Green New Deal,” Markey tweeted after news of Frost’s primary win.
Polls leading up to the primary showed Frost with the lead in the 10-candidate race, but he said his campaign team was working as hard on Election Day as it has all summer, hitting the streets at 4 a.m. to drop off campaign literature at voters’ houses.
The minimum age to hold a seat in Congress is 25. Frost has never run for public office, but he doesn’t consider himself a political newcomer. He started working in politics when he was 15, protesting gun violence after the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
He went on to become the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, the group organized by students who survived the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. He also worked for the ACLU in Florida, supporting voting rights for formerly incarcerated citizens.
Frost refers to his as the “mass shootings generation.” March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg on Tuesday summed up the forces that he said would propel Frost to Congress: “Never underestimate the power of pissed off young people.”
Frost gained national attention four months ago when he confronted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) at an event in Orlando, shortly after the school shootings in Uvalde, Tex. In a video that circulated widely on social media, Frost is seen telling DeSantis he needs to do something about gun violence. DeSantis answered, “Nobody wants to hear from you,” and Frost is being seen escorted out.
Frost later featured the exchange prominently in some of his campaign ads, saying he wouldn’t let those politicians silence “our voices.” Frost said he thinks voters angry at DeSantis will help propel him to Congress.
“Our positive message about the world we deserve to live in is what really resonates with folks, despite what’s coming out of the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee,” Frost said.
He argued that DeSantis’s policies have motivated voters.
“Our message has resonated at this time in spite of what the governor’s doing to queer folks being scapegoated, in spite of Black people and their rights to vote being taken away by the governor, in spite of our LGBTQ plus community and Latinos and Black folks and disabled folks being scapegoated by this governor for every issue under the sun,” he said.
Frost was the top fundraiser in the race for the open seat currently held by Rep. Val Demings (D), who won the nomination for Senate on Tuesday night and will challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R).
While the GOP gerrymander of Florida makes the district safe for any Democrat to win, Frost hoped a future legal challenge could get the state’s lines redrawn.
“These maps are racist,” Frost said, “and the governor had two goals: one, strip Democrats of representation, and two, cut Black representation in half.”
While the Black vote was diluted in the new district, Frost’s victory meant Demings will almost certainly be succeeded by an Afro-Latino Democrat.
In the race’s final weeks, Frost and his supporters went on offense, fending off last-minute spending from Grayson, who has tried to mount a comeback since losing a 2016 primary amid allegations of spousal abuse. Grayson denied those allegations and denied responsibility for mysterious text messages sent to Democratic primary voters that made vague accusations of misconduct against Frost.
“He saw the momentum we had and, unfortunately, spewed out complete lies about me,” Frost said. “Politics shouldn’t be about that. And I think the voters see through that stuff.”
Amy B Wang contributed to this report.