In a traditional political campaign, a candidate's youth might be a weakness—a sign of inexperience or lack of qualifications.
But Alex Law, a congressional candidate in southern New Jersey, isn't trying to avoid the fact that he's only 24 years old. He's even erected a 60-foot billboard in his district declaring: “Alex Law for Congress, born in 1991.”
“That’s not something we hide from, that’s something that we’re excited about,” Law told me. “People are excited to see a new generation—portrayed by the media as one that doesn’t really care about government and politics—wanting to step up and address our country's challenges.”
Law, who turns 25 (the minimum age required to serve in the House of Representatives) next March, would be the youngest member of Congress since 25-year-old Thomas Downey was elected in 1974. Clean-cut, blond, and very earnest, Law is challenging an incumbent who's more than twice his age in the Democratic primary next year.
The NYU business school graduate quit his job as a consultant at IBM to move back in with family and start his long-shot campaign. Now, he's running as a champion for millennials. He's released an animated campaign video titled "Millennials Unite," which shows old people locking up Law and other twenty-somethings in a cage:
"To [older generations], we are vaguely hipsters that care too much about happiness and don't work hard," he says in the video. "This generation, a generation of artists, programmers, and dreamers, we should have a say."
Can you really unite a group as diverse as "millennials" into a single political movement? Law said his video was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But he thinks there are some issues that set his generation apart, like broader support for student loan forgiveness, LGBTQ rights, and drug policy reform.
“Millennials have a fundamental skepticism that anything will change, even with an exciting new candidate,” Law said. “That’s my challenge, to convince them that I can go the distance on this.”
He checks the boxes of stereotypical millennial political beliefs: He supports legalizing marijuana and reforming the student loan system—"it’s an absolute atrocity that we are profiting so heavily off of our students,” he said. And he thinks voting should be allowed online. “We do our finances online, our medical records—there’s really no reason that we couldn’t vote online,” Law said, except that “most elected officials are invested in having less people vote, not more people vote.”
But he doesn't want to be just the millennial candidate. “We’ve gotten some of our most ardent support from baby boomers,” he said. Law backs a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and wants to raise the minimum wage.
He's also a big fan of Bernie Sanders. While he calls Hillary Clinton “arguably the most qualified person ever to run for president,” he was disappointed by her use of SuperPAC's to raise funds. “Our democracy is for sale, and it’s being bought by corporations and very wealthy individuals that play by a different set of rules than everybody else,” Law said. He likes that Sanders isn't afraid to say what he thinks.
“We’re taking our case straight to the people, just like Bernie is,” Law said.
Law is facing incumbent Donald Norcross, 56, a first-term Democrat with a moderate voting record (he supports the Keystone XL pipeline and opposes President Obama's Iran deal, for example). Norcross' brother George is one of the top political bosses in the local party, and Law said he's running against a "political machine." He notes that Norcross and his predecessors in the district haven't passed a single bill they've written since Law was born.
"The great thing about our American democracy is that anyone can run for public office and have their voice heard," Norcross said in a statement. "I always expect to earn the privilege to serve our community come election time."
The district, which includes Camden and Philadelphia suburbs, is considered a safe Democratic district, with the primary next June being the most competitive election.
Does Law have a chance? Running against an incumbent in a Congressional primary is a very difficult proposition, especially for a first-time candidate. He said he's knocked on 17,000 doors so far, and had 15 high school interns this summer. His campaign office is in an artsy co-working space.
Law has raised about $7,500 in donations this year, while Norcross has raised $300,000 as of July, according to Federal Election Commission records. Law has loaned his campaign $6,600. He said he expects to start raising more money this winter.
If he wins, Law said he wants to represent his district but also be a voice in Congress for his generation. As he says in his campaign video: “I was born in 1991, and I’m fighting for us.”
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.