Millennials Could Shake Up Congress Next Session

15 face primary elections Tuesday

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., is currently the youngest member of Congress, one of the oldest collections of lawmakers in recent history, according to the Congressional Research Service. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Millennial candidates could change the age makeup of Congress, currently one of the oldest ever.

With an average age of 58 in the House and 62 in the Senate, this Congress is the oldest of any in recent history, according to a report by Congressional Research Service.

But that could change come November. Nearly 20 millennials — generally considered those born sometime between the early 80s and early 00s — won races in last week’s primaries, according to the Millennial Action Project, a generational organization combating political polarization. Thirteen more, almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, will be up for a vote Tuesday.

Millennial Action Project President and founder Stephen Olikara predicts  the aisle between the parties will become more narrow as time goes on. The millennial generation is the least partisan of any generation, he said. Its members will focus heavily on student debt, the environment, and the future of the workforce given the “gig economy,” creating a cooperative atmosphere and re-instilling a sense of trust in government, currently at an unprecedented low, he said. 

Last week, 29-year-old Abby Finkenauer won the Democratic nod for Iowa’s 1st District contest. First elected at 24 to represent Dubuque in the Iowa House of Representatives, Finkenauer has had a narrow lead in Democratic polls over GOP incumbent Rod Blum. If elected she would be the youngest member of Congress to date, according to the Washington Post.

Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone, 60, lost to two different millennials this year. First, in a March special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th District, Saccone fell to 33-year-old Democrat Conor Lamb, a former Marine. Then in a May 16 primary for the GOP spot on the 16th District ballot, Saccone lost to 34-year-old Guy Reschenthaler, a current state senator. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican, which means Reschenthaler is likely coming to Congress and could lower the average age of the House come 2019.

Tuesday presents more chances for millennials to potentially lower the average age of Congress.

Democratic candidate Abigail Spanberger, 38, is one of two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 7th District to take on GOP Rep. Dave Brat. Spanberger is a former CIA operative. Inside Elections rates the race Leans Republican.

In light of Trey Gowdy’s retirement in South Carolina’s 4th district, five millennials — four Republicans and one Democrat — are competing for his seat. The Club for Growth Action Fund has thrown support behind 35-year old radio host and Republican candidate Josh Kimbrell, which could give him a boost in this conservative district.

The Millennial Action Project launched the Congressional Future Caucus, including members of Congress under the age of 45, in 2013, according to Olikara. The caucus aims to find nonpartisan common ground currently under the leadership of Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. 

Correction, June 15, 2018, 5 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated Abby Finkenauer’s age.

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