Maryland Del. Joe Vogel (D) announced his candidacy Monday for the Democratic nomination in an open Maryland congressional seat.
If successful, Vogel, 26, would be just the second member of Congress to hail from Generation Z. He is less than two weeks older than Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.), who was elected this past November.
Vogel, who immigrated to the United States from Uruguay as a young boy, would also be the first Latino and the first openly gay person to represent Maryland in Congress.
In a phone interview with HuffPost, Vogel noted that U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D), the youngest member of Maryland’s congressional delegation, was born in 1962.
“When it comes to lived experience, there is an entire generational perspective that is missing,” he said. “There is an entire perspective of a community — of multiple communities — that have been missing in the conversation.”
Vogel sees age as an important lens for appreciating the urgency of issues like climate change and gun violence.
“We need to have our generation at the table as we’re dealing with these challenges,” he said. “And we have to bring urgency on these fronts.”
Vogel hopes to succeed Rep. David Trone (D) in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, a Democrat-leaning seat that stretches from the Washington suburbs all the way out to the rural and conservative Maryland panhandle. (Trone, the multimillionaire founder of the Total Wine chain, is running for a U.S. Senate seat due to be vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin in 2024.)
Vogel is the first Democrat to officially announce his candidacy for Maryland’s 6th. With the opportunity to represent a seat where President Joe Biden won by nearly 10 percentage points in 2020, he is likely to have many rivals for the Democratic nomination in the April 2024 primary election.
A Gaithersburg resident raised in Rockville, Vogel grew up in suburban Montgomery County, northwest of Washington, D.C.
In a perhaps fitting trajectory for someone reared in the shadow of the nation’s capital, Vogel has already ascended rapidly in the world of politics. He worked on New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 reelection campaign, founded a virtual tutoring nonprofit, and obtained a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard.
In 2022, Vogel mounted a primary challenge against then-Del. Jim Gilchrist. Months later, Gilchrist announced that he would not seek another term. Vogel went on to easily beat the Republican competition in November.
“The idea of waiting 15-20 years — waiting my turn as they say — while all these challenges continue to threaten our very democracy, reverse our rights and make our planet unlivable for future generations — that is just not something I can sit by and watch happen.”
Vogel has been representing his district in Annapolis, where the Maryland legislature meets, for less than six months. I asked why he isn’t waiting to complete his first term before considering a run for higher office.
“The idea of waiting 15-20 years — waiting my turn as they say — while all these challenges continue to threaten our very democracy, reverse our rights and make our planet unlivable for future generations — that is just not something I can sit by and watch happen,” he said.
In his brief time in Maryland’s House of Delegates, Vogel played a role in the passage of several laws. He was the primary sponsor of a bill requiring Maryland hospitals to test for fentanyl in the course of routine urine screenings, and a co-sponsor of a bill convening a “truth and reconciliation” commission on the lynchings of Black Americans that took place in Maryland.
Vogel told HuffPost that his top three priorities in Congress would be protecting democracy from Republican efforts to curtail voting rights; protecting abortion and other reproductive rights; and expanding access to mental health care.
If elected, Vogel, who is not accepting donations from corporate political action committees, hopes to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
As a self-described “pragmatic progressive” who cites Booker as his political role model, however, Vogel leans toward what he sees as the most practical solutions to problems facing workers and marginalized groups.
He told HuffPost that he would support “Medicare for All” if it were the “best way” to achieve universal health care coverage, but he opposes forcing people to abandon private insurance plans, or barring private insurance from covering procedures covered by Medicare. Both of the latter provisions are in the main Medicare for All bills in Congress.
Likewise, Vogel supports making college tuition free for all Americans, noting how critical free college in Uruguay was for his parents. But he takes a cautious attitude toward the cancellation of all student debt, emphasizing his interest in codifying President Joe Biden’s targeted cancellation of up to $20,000 in student debt, before articulating a stance on something more maximalist.
In the realm of foreign policy, Vogel is firmly within the Democratic mainstream. He supports the United States’ strategy of continuing to arm the Ukrainian government in its effort to fend off a Russian invasion.
As an undergraduate at George Washington University, Vogel, who is Jewish, fought efforts to advance the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. He told HuffPost that he also opposes placing conditions on U.S. aid to Israel as a means to influence Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
“There are ways to engage in that conversation, push for a two-state solution — push for the right of Israel to defend itself and the human rights of Palestinians — without us conditioning aid that is vital to Israel’s economy and to Israel’s democracy and Israel’s ability to protect itself,” he said.
Vogel is supporting Biden’s reelection in 2024. He credits the president for leading the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic and making progress in the fight against climate change.
But Vogel sees his own candidacy as an opportunity to address people’s worries about how concentrated the country’s political leadership is in the hands of older Americans.
“As much as I am supportive of President Biden and eager to see him reelected, there is likely to be a presidential election in 2024 that is between two presidents who are 80 in their tenure,” he said. “Which is fine — so long as we start to bring up this new generation of leaders.”