Jack Cocchiarella realized there was a problem looming among his generation leading up to the 2020 election. Many of his classmates in his Orlando, Florida-area high school were not registered to vote and didn’t know how to register ahead of the state’s primary election.
Cocchiarella, now 19 years old, decided he would help solve the dilemma and work to register his classmates to vote. With a budding passion for politics and activism, Cocchiarella called upon some of his friends around the country to help students in their school districts register to vote.
But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shifted his goal of registering as many people as possible to an online platform. After months of success, Cocchiarella had a bigger ambition in mind.
“I had never been on political Twitter until around May of 2020,” Cocchiarella said. “At that point in time, I started following a lot of the guys who knew the founder the Lincoln Project… and I got connected to them.”
Cocchiarella said he was a digital team member that leaked the RNC speeches, and he gained a following within the political community on social media. Today, Cocchiarella’s Twitter account has more than 100,000 followers.
Regardless of being younger than the majority of political campaign employees around the nation, Cocchiarella hopes to redefine the qualifications of who could get involved in a political campaign and who could impact the outcome of an election or a message.
“People are just willing to work hard and have a fresh new idea of how to communicate. ‘Gen Z’ is becoming a more empowered and an important piece of our electorate,” Cocchiarella said. “We’re honestly willing to tell it like it is.”
Cocchiarella is now working remotely as the digital director for Democrat Marcus Flowers’s campaign while attending his freshman year at Dartmouth University. Flowers is running in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, which Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene now represents.
Gen Z in Congress?
While Cocchiarella is looking to impact the result of this congressional election, Maxwell Frost is looking to become the first “Gen Z” member of the United States House of Representatives.
Frost is one of more than eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings currently represents one of Florida’s largest districts, based in the Orlando metropolitan area, but the seat is now open for 2022 because she is running for Senate.
Frost has spent the past few years working for activism organizations and political campaigns since he was 15. But now, Frost wants to be the one with his name on the ballot, despite being the youngest candidate in his race.
“As a survivor of gun violence, I’ve experienced something that most people, if not, most people in Congress have never experienced. I think that experience is important,” Frost said. “As a young person, I understand that we’re going through crushing student debt and deaths all across the country. That is a racial justice issue. That is an issue that’s impacting our economy. And as a young person who’s going through that, I get that issue firsthand.”
Frost has spent the past decade working for the American Civil Liberties Union and March For Our Lives.
“We have to use every tool in our toolbox. Knocking on every door is important and personal to me as an organizer. We need to have face-to-face conversations with voters and with people across this district. We’re going to call every number, and we’re going to call everyone and talk to them about how important this campaign is,” Frost said.