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A Conversation With California’s First Gen Z Lawmaker


Good morning.

Recently, I spoke with Alex Lee, who was elected last month to represent his San Jose-area district within the State Assembly after Kansen Chu, the incumbent, said he wouldn’t run again.

Mr. Lee, 25, beat out a crowded area in the Democratic primary for the seat and has made headlines as California’s first Generation Z lawmaker. He’ll even be the primary brazenly bisexual particular person to turn out to be a state legislator.

Here’s our dialog, edited and condensed for size and readability:

Congratulations, to begin with. Tell me a little bit about your self and your background — and likewise the way you determined to run for State Assembly of all workplaces. State lawmakers in California in fact have a number of energy, however I don’t suppose folks at all times notice it.

I’m 25 years outdated, the identical quantity as my district proper now, which is a truth I like. But after I began working this marketing campaign in June 2019, I used to be nonetheless working for Assemblymember Evan Low in his area district workplace. And earlier than that I had labored within the State Capitol for State Senator Henry Stern.

And each had been younger record-breakers of their very own. Henry was the first millennial in the State Senate, and Evan was the youngest Asian-American state legislator before me.

I felt like we have now a Democratic extremely, tremendous majority, proper? We have all the chief positions. And but we are able to’t appear to do the issues which can be massive and progressive. We haven’t gotten common well being care, and even near it. We haven’t assured housing for everybody. Wealth inequality is uncontrolled. There’s one thing deeply mistaken about that. And I believe that frustration within the system drove me to run.

What are your high priorities?

The theme of what is going to hopefully be my first time period goes to be housing safety and affordability, and getting company cash out of politics. On Dec. 7, which is swearing-in day, I’m going to introduce a invoice to ban candidates in California from taking company cash or enterprise entity cash and to construct a publicly financed election system to incentivize folks to decide out.

What’s your method to housing?

The massive image is found out: the three P’s. It’s the manufacturing of housing, the preservation of present reasonably priced housing, and safety of working households and renters.

My final aim is to lean on public social housing as a powerful different means for the manufacturing of housing. Right now, the for-profit market has mainly a monopoly on housing manufacturing. And cities and localities mainly can solely negotiate inside these confines.

I’m additionally eager to get rid of Costa-Hawkins.

You signify Santa Clara County, Silicon Valley — cities that haven’t traditionally been particularly friendly to even multifamily development. What do you say to constituents who’re hesitant about denser growth?

I’ll be sincere — it’s not the best dialog to have as a result of everybody has some opinion about it. But each single particular person in my district does have the identical desires. What they need is for housing to be reasonably priced for his or her youngsters, for themselves, or their grandparents or households.

[Hear more from Gen Z in their own words.]

How has being Gen Z — and I’m speaking particularly about rising up as a digital native, dwelling by this period, not simply being in your 20s — formed the best way you suppose about these points?

Look, I dwell at dwelling and I’m going to dwell at dwelling, I believe, for the foreseeable future. But it’s humorous as a result of I at all times see the feedback saying you’re 25, you’re not Gen Z, after which there’s all these totally different questions on —

Do you establish as Gen Z?

Yes, sure I do. At the top of the day, it’s an arbitrary social assemble, nevertheless it’s an essential state of mind. We are a era that has grown up and understood that we’re being screwed over.

When we take into consideration the millennial era, I believe there are so much who cling onto that Nineties hope you can work exhausting and it’ll all work out. And that’s sort of altering. Not to be utterly reductive.

But I believe there’s a unique relationship when you perceive the world is completely screwed until we do one thing about it. Why not go down swinging as exhausting as we are able to and go battle the large battle?

(This article is a part of the California Today publication. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)


Track coronavirus circumstances in California.

  • San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, went to a socialite’s birthday dinner on the French Laundry the night time after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ill-conceived go to. And San Jose’s mayor, Sam Liccardo, admitted he violated pandemic restrictions and went to a household Thanksgiving dinner with folks from 5 households. Bad appears, a columnist wrote. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • The captain of the Conception, the dive boat that caught hearth off the coast of Santa Barbara, killing 34, has been charged with seaman’s manslaughter. [The New York Times]

  • Representative Mike Garcia, a Republican, has gained a full time period within the House for the seat vacated by Katie Hill. It was the final House race to be referred to as within the state in a great yr for Republicans, who claimed 4 seats they misplaced in 2018. [The New York Times]

Read extra concerning the battle for the twenty fifth House District. [The New York Times]

  • California’s median dwelling worth hit $712,430 in September, closing out 4 months of document highs. [The New York Times]

  • House-flippers have been enlisting previously homeless folks to protect vacant homes in yet one more image of a damaged actual property market. [The New Yorker]

  • Over the weekend, California Highway Patrol officers forcefully eliminated activists who had been in vacant homes owned by Caltrans in El Sereno. [LAist]

  • Renters are more and more untethered from workplaces in coastal areas. So they’re heading to the Inland Empire, the place rents are additionally rising. [The Orange County Register]

  • Salesforce stated it will purchase Slack for a monster $27.7 billion. It’s the newest in a spate of offers by tech corporations aimed toward capitalizing on the shift to distant work. [The New York Times]

  • The Cal State University software deadline has been prolonged to Dec. 15 in recognition of difficulties potential college students are going through within the pandemic. [The California State University]

If you missed it, learn a dialog with the college’s new chancellor. [The New York Times]

  • Los Angeles determined to close down a coronavirus testing website at Union Station for a movie crew engaged on a reboot of “She’s All That” starring the TikTok star Addison Rae. Residents and group organizers had been outraged, and town reversed the choice. [The New York Times]


California Today goes dwell at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you need to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this electronic mail? Sign up for California Today right here and learn each version on-line right here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all around the state, together with the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — however she at all times desires to see extra. Follow alongside right here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.





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