Gen Z Rep. Maxwell Frost Doesn't Want to Be Put in an AOC Box: 'I'm My Own Person'

Frost respects the heck out of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — in fact, he credits her for a lot of his success — but grouping them together, he warns, diminishes their individuality

Maxwell Frost
Reps. Maxwell Frost and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Rep. Maxwell Frost has found plenty in common with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during his short time on Capitol Hill. The Latino progressives were both historically young when they were elected to the House of Representatives, fresh on the heels of working service jobs. Now 26 and 33, they are the youngest two lawmakers in Congress.

"There is a solidarity just being young people in Congress," Frost explains of his relationship to Ocasio-Cortez. "So, she gives me a lot of advice — not even political, but practical advice, just coming here as a working-class person."

When Frost, the nation's first Gen Z congressman, revealed in December that he had been denied an apartment in Washington because of his low credit score, Ocasio-Cortez replied to his Twitter posts with an offer to help him navigate his debt and job-related expenses.

Ocasio-Cortez faced a similar challenge after she won her first election in 2018, going viral at the time for speaking up about her difficulty paying for a D.C. apartment before her congressional salary kicked in. That signature vulnerability — coupled with her historic achievement as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress — is what helped make "AOC" a household name almost overnight.

"Her running gave a lot of young people permission to run for office," Frost says of Ocasio-Cortez. "If she didn't do what she did, I probably wouldn't have run."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Upsets Rep. Joseph Crowley In NY Primary
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates her upset victory over Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in her district's 2018 primary election. Scott Heins/Getty Images

Since Frost's successful campaign, in which he also had to go through congressional veterans to secure the Democratic nomination, Americans have wasted no time equating his unlikely journey with AOC's.

But while their similarities are undeniable — as of Thursday they're even more closely linked, having both been appointed to the investigative House Oversight Committee — Frost hopes people will stop trying to lump lawmakers together and instead give everyone a chance to shine in their own unique ways.

"People in general, they like to group others," Frost adds. Case in point, he says, is "The Squad," which began as a group of four progressive women of color — Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley — who each entered Congress the same year. First united as targets of then-President Donald Trump, they soon became the most recognizable friends on Capitol Hill.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks as, from left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass
'The Squad': Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. J Scott Applewhite/AP/Shutterstock

Since 2018, though, the Squad have been subject to much speculation and criticism that overshadows their accomplishments. Why isn't AOC standing with Rep. Omar at this event, is she outgrowing the Squad? Why did they invite this new progressive lawmaker to join their crew, but not that one? Will the Squad members crumble if one of them gets voted out of Congress?

Frost says that, while it's true people make friends and allies in Congress, the public takes those groupings a bit too literally and develops a distorted view of how government works. "It's like everyone's in a box, you know what I mean?" he asks. "I don't think that's helpful, because everyone operates in such a different way."

Looking around the House floor on any given day, he says, "it's not just the progressives and the moderates, or the Black people and the Hispanics. Everyone's talking with each other." Frost wants the public to see that side of government — the open and collaborative side — where everyone is seeking input from everyone.

Back to the topic of people equating him with Ocasio-Cortez, Frost calls the comparisons flattering: "AOC is awesome." But "she's her own person and I'm my own person," he reminds. "I don't want people to compare us just because we're young."

For more on Maxwell Frost's historic road to Congress and first days on the job, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands now.

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