Maxwell Frost is the first Gen-Z member of Congress — here are 10 of the youngest Congress members in history

Rep. Maxwell Frost speaks at a podium
Rep. Maxwell Frost.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
  • Although a US senator must be 30 years old, a member of the House can be as young as 25.

  • In recent years, young House members like AOC and Maxwell Frost have gained media attention.

  • Madison Cawthorn was 25 when he became the first person born in the 1990s to win a seat in Congress.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Florida Democrat, is the first member of Gen Z to win a seat in Congress. He was 25 when he was elected.

Maxwell Frost at a rally.
Rep. Maxwell FrostGIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images

Maxwell Alejandro Frost, now 26, is the first member of Gen Z to serve in Congress. According to his campaign, Frost wants to help bring an end to gun violence, reform the criminal justice system, expand access to healthcare, and tackle climate change.

In an interview with NPR earlier this month, Frost discussed the importance of building coalitions with Americans of all ages when it comes to fighting climate change.

"I am folding into a movement of not just young people," he said, "but folks across this country, both older and younger, who have been fighting because they understand that the cost of not doing anything is far greater than the cost of taking bold action."

When Vox asked Frost to speak on the issue of ageism in Congress, he replied, "I don't really hold it against people too much. I mean, the fact of the matter is it is abnormal for a 25-year-old to be in the halls of Congress as a member. And so I'm one of many folks, hopefully, young folks that'll change that stigma."

Thomas Downey, a Democrat from New York, was also elected at 25.

Black and white image of Rep. Thomas Downey.
Rep. Thomas Downey.Library of Congress

Elected in 1974 at age 25, Downey was the youngest member of the 94th United States Congress. Originally from Queens, New York, Downey represented the second congressional district of New York, which encompasses parts of Long Island's south shore.

Not only was Downey exempt from serving in the Vietnam War because of a perforated eardrum, but he was also vehemently opposed to US involvement. Rep. Robert Dornan publicly disparaged Downey, referring to him as a "draft-dodging wimp" in a 1985 speech, The Washington Post reported at the time. After Downey confronted Dornan about his remark, Dornan grabbed him by the collar and tie at the Capitol, according to Downey and witnesses. Dornan later claimed he was attempting to straighten Downey's tie.

Downey eventually lost his seat in Congress in 1993 after he — along with other lawmakers — was revealed to have overdrawn his House bank account while his wife served as the House bank auditor. Speaking about the Republican Congress members who brought the scandal to light, Downey said in 1992, "I'd like to think that [they] will eventually get serious about the problems of the country. If the next Congress consumes itself in the internal affairs of the House, it will not address the problems the people sent us here to work on."

Among the legislation Downey sponsored were bills aimed at supporting the arts, attending to the needs of seniors, and providing relief for jobless Americans.

Madison Cawthorn, a Republican from North Carolina, was also 25 when he became the first person born in the 1990s to join Congress.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaking a rally.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn.Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In 2020, Madison Cawthorn became the first person born in the 1990s to win a seat in US Congress. According to CBS, Cawthorn told Fox News in 2020 that his priorities included promoting market-driven healthcare and restoring unity within the US' highly polarized political climate.

According to BuzzFeed News, Cawthorn also expressed support for the dismantling of Confederate statues and opposition to abortion and universal healthcare. He is a strong advocate for the right to bear arms.

In 2022, the Washington Post reported that while being interviewed on "The Warrior Poet Society Podcast" in March 2022, Cawthorn expressed his disgust for what he perceives as "sexual perversion that goes on in Washington," alleging that he received unsolicited inappropriate invitations from other members of Congress. This comment generated backlash and eventually led to the loss of his seat in Congress. According to the Washington Post, the then Senate minority leader Kevin McCarthy called Cawthorn's comments "unacceptable," and stated that "no evidence" existed to support his claims.

Florida Republican Adam Putnam became a member of Congress at age 26.

Headshot of Rep. Adam Putnam.
Rep. Adam Putnam.Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

Born in Bartow, Florida, Putnam represented the state's 12th district from 2001 to 2011. Joining at just 26 years old, he spent four years of his tenure as the youngest member of Congress.

Putnam began serving as the Republican policy chairman in 2006 and, later, became the chairman of the House Republican Conference. He served on multiple committees, namely the committees on Agriculture, Government Reform, Rules, and Financial Services.

In 2002, he was among the 296 members of Congress who voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq. While in Congress, he took a firm stance against same-sex marriage — voting to both ban same-sex marriage and constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — and opposed the implementation of new taxes.

Immediately following his 10-year run in Congress, Putnam took on the role of Florida commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, a role he held until 2019.


Democrat Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee was inspired by his father to enter politics at a young age.

Headshot of Harold Ford Jr.
Rep. Harold Ford Jr.Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

Harold Ford Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father, Harold Ford Sr., when he began a career in politics. In 1996, Ford Sr., who represented Tennessee in the House for 11 terms, decided against running for reelection. At just 26 years old, Ford Jr. swiftly took his place. According to the US government's official historical record, Ford's mother reported that "as a four–year–old attending his father's swearing–in as a freshman House Member, Harold, Jr., raised his hand and declared, 'This is what I want to be when I grow up." Ford Jr. was reelected four times, serving in Congress until 2007.

While holding office, Ford Jr. spoke at the DNC in support of Al Gore in 2000. According to CNN's political archive, in his speech, Ford Jr. leveraged his youth to garner support for Gore, saying, "I also stand here representing a new generation, a generation committed to those ideals and inspired by an unshakable confidence in our future."

Despite his admiration for his father, Ford Jr. had no intention of acting as an extension of Ford Sr. The US government's official historical archive reports that Ford Jr. said, "I don't think [my father] would respect me if I didn't have the fortitude to disagree with him if I felt he was wrong."

He successfully established his own reputation, even going as far to build positive relationships with his father's political rivals.

Among the committees he served on were Education and The Workforce, Financial Services, and Government Reform.


In 2009, when he was just 27, Illinois Republican Aaron Schock became the first member of Congress born in the 1980s.

Rep. Aaron Schok at a public event.
Rep. Aaron Schock.Brigitte Dusseau/AFP for Getty Images

While in Congress, Schock opposed the right to abortion: He voted to pull federal support from Planned Parenthood and prohibit federal funds from covering abortion on plans under the Affordable Care Act.

In 2015, he resigned his seat amid a congressional ethics investigation after the Associated Press reported that he'd used taxpayer money to fund parties, trips on private jets, and concert tickets. The following year, he was indicted on 24 counts, including wire fraud and theft of government funds, The New York Times reported. In 2019, federal authorities dismissed the charges after he reached a deal with prosecutors.

After opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during his time in Congress, Schock came out as gay in 2020. According to The New York Times, Schock wrote on his website, "If I were in Congress today, I would support L.G.B.T.Q. rights in every way I could."

Before becoming governor of Connecticut, Republican John G. Rowland began his political career in Congress at 27.

Rep. John G. Rowland.
Rep. John G. Rowland.Bob Falcetti/Getty Images

A native of Waterbury, Connecticut, John G. Rowland became the representative of Connecticut's 5th congressional district at just 27 years old.

While in Congress, Rowland sponsored legislation that aimed to support Americans with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He also supported the effort to amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against Americans with disabilities.

After serving two terms in Congress, Rowland became the youngest Connecticut governor in history at age 37. In this position, Rowland became the subject of "Geargate," a political scandal in which a variety of equipment intended for the military (including sleeping bags, camouflage gear, and a bayonet) were gifted to his children and state police officers who served on his security detail. According to The Hartford Courant, Rowland described the misconduct as "embarrassing, silly and stupid."

Further, Rowland was investigated for corruption and eventually resigned after reports emerged that he'd not paid state contractors for work on his home. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit tax fraud and deprive taxpayers of his honest services, and he spent 10 months in prison. Then in 2014, he was found guilty on campaign corruption charges after he worked on two congressional campaigns while hiding payments from regulators, and he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Tennessee Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper, who first assumed office at 28, served in Congress for 32 years across two terms.

Headshot of Rep. Jim Cooper.
Rep. Jim Cooper.Courtesy of the Member for

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Jim Cooper represented Tennessee's fourth congressional district from 1983 to 1995, entering the role at the age of 28. He served in Congress again from 2003 to 2023, this time representing the fifth congressional district of Tennessee.

Among the committees Cooper served on during his time in office were the committees on Armed Services, Oversight and Government Reform, and Intelligence.

In between his tenures in Congress, Cooper taught a course on healthcare at Vanderbilt University's Healthcare MBA program. According to the Tennessee Lookout, Cooper's interest in healthcare stemmed from his knowledge of the US hospital system, which he gained at a young age while watching his father undergo cancer treatment. He has criticized Tennessee's reluctance to expand Medicaid, calling the refusal a "national tragedy" and a "self-inflicted wound."

A Democrat from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to ever serve in the US Congress.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.Bauzen/GC Images for Getty Images

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (commonly known as AOC) began representing the 14th congressional district of New York in 2019. Elected at age 29, she remains the youngest woman to ever serve in the US Congress.

According to Vox, AOC is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization that opposes capitalism. She supports Medicare-for-all and has called for the abolition of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

Along with Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, AOC became a member of what is known as "The Squad," a group of progressive House members who are outspoken about their fight against the establishment in Washington. Their efforts to push the Democratic party further left have been met with backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike.

AOC is known for her extensive social-media following, and she was one of the subjects of a 2019 Netflix documentary titled "Knock Down the House."

Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy won a close — and hostile — congressional race at age 29.

Headshot of Rep. Patrick Murphy.
Rep. Patrick Murphy.Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

Patrick Murphy, who represented the 18th district of Florida from 2013 to 2017, is frequently described as a centrist. A supporter of LGBTQ rights and the right to abortion, Murphy holds progressive stances but described himself as "not ultra-liberal," according to the Huffington Post.

In 2012, at just 29, the Miami native beat opponent Allen West in what Politico referred to as "one of the nation's highest-profile congressional races." The high-profile nature of his campaign was, in part, due to the content of both opponents' campaign advertisements: West featured a mug shot of Murphy that was taken after he was caught underage drinking (in a case that was eventually dismissed), and Murphy's ad featured an illustration of West physically assaulting an elderly woman, in an effort to represent West's treatment of senior citizens.

In 2015, Murphy published an article on Medium, "We Can – and Must – Tackle the Climate Crisis." He wrote, "As a native Floridian, born and raised in the Florida Keys and living along South Florida's beaches my entire life, the threats to our coastline and our community because of climate change are not only deeply troubling, but personal."

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