By Dan Merica, CNN
Karoline Leavitt, a former aide in Donald Trump’s White House whom CNN projected would win the Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, could become one of the first members of Generation Z elected to Congress this year.
Leavitt’s victory is the latest result in the trend of Gen Z candidates running for Congress now that they are turning 25-years-old, the minimum age required to be sworn into the House.
Maxwell Frost, a community organizer, won the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 10th Congressional District last month at age 25. Because the area heavily favors Democrats, he is likely to be elected to Congress in November.
Leavitt, also 25, has a far more competitive race against Rep. Chris Pappas, one of the most vulnerable House Democrats in the country. But the Republican has run on her age being a strength.
“We have people in Washington, DC, that have been clinging to power twice as long as I have been alive,” she told CNN earlier this year. “My youth is a strength and that is showing on the campaign trail already.”
And on Tuesday, as she declared victory, she touted her age as something that set her apart from the crowded GOP field.
“Tonight, we made history. And I look forward to serving as the youngest congresswoman in United States history when we beat Chris Pappas,” she said. “As many of you know, my youth is one of the many reasons that I felt compelled to run for Congress in the first place. Because it’s my generation of Americans — your children, your grandchildren — who are not being served well by the current state of our education system, our media and our entire culture.”
Leavitt is more of a political newcomer than her Republican competitors. After graduating from Saint Anselm College in 2019, she went to work in the Trump White House. She eventually became assistant press secretary under White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. After Trump’s loss, she went to work for New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who, when she was elected in 2014 at age 30, was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Leavitt’s victory came in the face of millions of dollars in outside spending seeking to halt her rise and help Matt Mowers, a Republican who failed to win the seat in 2020, win the nomination again. After polls showed Leavitt tied with Mowers, millions flooded into the state from outside groups like Congressional Leadership Fund and Defending Main Street, including in attack ads that called her “woke,” “immature” and “irresponsible.”
Those Republican groups believed Mowers, not Leavitt, would be best positioned to face Pappas. A Mowers victory would have meant a rematch of their 2020 race, which Mowers lost by 5 percentage points.
Leavitt’s victory is proof of the effectiveness of mimicking Trump’s style and political aggression in GOP primaries. Both Republicans worked for Trump — Leavitt in the White House and Mowers during the campaign and at the State Department — but where Mowers attempted to walk a fine line in his embrace of Trump, Leavitt was more brash.
Mowers’ caution opened the door for Leavitt, and turned the race into one as much about style as it was about substance. Both Mowers and Leavitt centered their campaigns on the same policy that helped elect the former President, but the upstart winner was unabashed about her support for the former President, especially on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
Earlier this month, when Mowers was asked if he had confidence in elections, the candidate said, “I have confidence in New Hampshire elections,” but added that there was space to “get better.”
Leavitt unloaded on Mowers for the answer, saying, “The 2020 election was undoubtedly stolen from President Trump,” and accusing Mowers of siding with Biden in believing the Democratic President “legitimately won more votes than Donald Trump.”
Leavitt told CNN earlier in the year that her candidacy and possible victory would show the impact younger voters could have.
“The Republican Party,” she said, “needs to support, recruit and encourage young candidates because we are losing with young voters.”
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