MARYLAND (DC News Now) — Joe Vogel and Jeffrie Long Jr. didn’t expect to be fast friends, but the two have formed a common bond in Maryland politics.
Vogel, 25, of Montgomery County and Long Jr., 26, of Prince George’s County, will be the youngest Maryland General Assembly delegates when they are sworn in next year — and the first members of Generation Z to be elected in Maryland.
Both men said they are not naive in joining an elected body that will have members much older than them on average. Their youth, they say, is an asset.
“I didn’t run for office because I was a young person. I happen to be young. I ran for office because I’m a problem solver,” said Vogel, who is Latino, Jewish and gay. “And I see problems in our state and community that I want to be a part of addressing.”
There have been many conversations with legislators who have been in office for a long time, Vogel said, and there are many issues such as climate change and a rise in hate crimes to tackle with vigor.
Long Jr., who was 25 when he was elected on Nov. 8, said he ran because he genuinely wants to help people and saw government as a vehicle for change.
“I want to make government work for people,” he said. “I’ve heard so many conversations in my days working as a staffer for several great politicians and legislators that government was not responsive. They didn’t get a response to their issues or concerns.”
Long Jr. said he saw stale ideas and the lack of innovation in the General Assembly “and I felt that I had fresh ideas, fresh solutions and that we could make government work for people.”
Both future delegates met during the primary season and grabbed lunch and started a rapport that has continued to blossom, they say.
“To be honest, when we first started off, we didn’t even have the awareness that we were both going into this as soon to be the youngest delegates in the chamber,” Vogel said. “Really for us it was just an opportunity to get to know each other and get to understand what motivated us to run.”
Long Jr. said they are forming a dynamic duo and partnership.
“Joe and I are going in together as a team. Jeff and Joe,” Long Jr. said. “To take Annapolis, not by storm, but to sit there and be a great beacon of light, of unity among colleagues, freshman to put forth meaningful legislation that will be both be impactful, although separate jurisdictions, and separate counties, but impact Marylanders as a whole.”
They aren’t the absolute youngest in history to be elected, though, as Maryland has a reputation for electing young leaders.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin was elected to the assembly when he was in his early 20s in 1966 and Timothy Maloney, a Prince George’s County lawmaker was chosen by voters when he was 22 in 1978.
Both men know that they have a chance to also build their own legacies. Long says he will be working to help seniors like his grandparents who are struggling to make ends meet in retirement.
“My grandmother is 86 and my grandfather is 91,” he said. “I take care of them primarily. My district’s primarily comprised of seniors. So I’ve heard their challenges.”
Vogel is concerned about climate change and threats to democracy and “the attacks on our fundamental rights.” And he said voters and his future colleagues in the legislature understand their election to office is important.
“If we want to be a representative Democracy, we need to have a diverse legislature,” Vogel said. “We need to have people of all ages, of all genders, of all races, of all ethnicities, at the table where the decisions are being made.”