Alex Lee: California’s first Gen Z legislator


Vanessa Hsieh

Winning 73% of the general vote, Alex Lee secured the election for California State Assembly District 25.

Sonali Carumbaya, Amadon Editor-in-chief

“I think the progressive vision is always about radical inclusivity. So it’s not a surprise that we can work together and figure things out, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable and pushing the envelope a little more than we’re used to,” said Alex Lee, California’s youngest state legislator in over 80 years

On November 3, Alex Lee declared victory in California’s Assembly District 25. He won as a 25 year-old, openly bisexual, Asian American candidate with a grassroots campaign; his election was record-breaking.

“We were outspent 15-1, even just by one candidate.”

Lee said that he didn’t originally plan on running for State Assembly in 2020, or in the near future. However, when the incumbent assembly member (Kansen Chu) announced that he wouldn’t run for reelection, an opportunity presented itself. 

Lee and his team worked on a lot of grassroots organizing. They knocked on 30,000 doors over the course of their campaign. (Alex Lee)

Overwhelmed with encouragement and motivation, Lee’s team launched itself into a tenacious grassroots campaign. They were clearly the underdogs, but they knocked on every door, went to every event, and chased the recognition that they knew they deserved.

“The biggest challenge was definitely not having any support from the establishment– in fact going against the establishment as a political outsider,” said Lee.

Republican rival Bob Brunton had the upper-hand of extra funding, outspending Lee 15 to 1. However, the passionate underdog campaign gained momentum and public attention. 

“We didn’t take any corporate money at all. And these are all pledges I’ll continue to commit to. You know, I didn’t take any corporate money, any police money, any fossil fuel money, any big real estate money…I think that kind of money never buys the amount of integrity that we got from taking those pledges, and I’m really happy to do so. I’m happy that all that hard work paid off,” said Lee.

Campaign finance is a controversial subject because groups oftentimes fund campaigns that will support specific company agendas. This type of funding may escalate quickly and dangerously, edging on dark money laundering through nonprofits and PACs. Large companies can essentially manipulate voters, government systems, and ultimately laws. 

Many government officials encourage campaign finance reform. Alex Lee will be one of them.

Another one of Lee’s priorities is tackling the affordable housing crisis; he seeks large revision of public social housing so we can “build housing to house people and not for profit.” (Vanessa Hsieh)

“It’s no secret that political money has an outsize influence in our democracy. On my first day in office, December 7th, we are going to introduce a bill to get corporate money out of politics. [It] would prohibit any candidate in the state from taking corporate money. And there are other provisions in it too, like a publicly financed election system,” said Lee.

What started out as a small grassroots campaign received many impressive endorsements. Alex Lee for California State Assembly District 25 gained the support of several noted politicians, including two former presidential candidates: Andrew Yang and Senator Bernie Sanders.

“We were really happy when we got [news of the endorsements]. It almost rivals how happy we were when we won too. Just to be recognized by the grandfather of the modern progressive movement is incredibly heartening, so we were really, really appreciative of that,” said Lee.

“Politics is kind of like high school.”

The newly-elected assemblyman will be entering a group of experienced, older legislators. However, Alex Lee remains confident and unintimidated. Through his experiences as a staffer for the State Legislature and a legislative policy advisor for the State Senate, he learned strategies to navigate political settings.

This campaign showcased Lee’s ability to work across generations and different age groups. (Alex Lee)

“I really noticed, a lot of times, politics is kind of like high school. If you ever relate to the feeling that you’re in a group project and there’s like one person who does all the work, it’s like that…So if one person is willing to go out there, and do the hard work, and stick their neck out, and be politically courageous, sometimes it helps everyone else kind of join along. So, I’m gonna be out there pushing the label of progressive ideas, and I think it will encourage more members to do so too,” said Lee.

State government is extremely important since it offers a more direct form of democracy– the issues and decisions are proximate. Because of the fast-paced nature of state legislation, officials must cooperate. 

“I think everyone comes in certainly with their own different set of expectations and experiences, so it’s going to be really important to be able to learn from other people…I’m really keen on learning from [my colleagues],” said Lee.

The California State Assembly is composed of 80 members, and it has had a democratic majority since 1970. New waves of progressivism have increased reforms and improved state-wide regulations.

“I think we are harbingers of a new era that’s finally going to make us catch up to our place the world. And I’m really excited about that.”

Assembly District 25 is unique in the way that it is an Asian American and Pacific Islander plurality district. Its voter demographic is also relatively young compared to other districts’. 

“I think that the tide is coming where [we can] build a more inclusive progressive movement that really fully embraces the experiences of communities of color, queer communities, and young people, and especially young, queer, communities of color,” said Lee.

Alex Lee explains the bills he will introduce once he’s sworn into office. (Sonali Carumbaya)

2020 has seen a surge of young voters– in local, primary, and presidential elections. Polling data revealed record-breaking voter turnouts, and the amount of young voters really stands out. Masses of young people have strong opinions on issues such as healthcare, systemic racism, and climate change. The scope of civic engagement is growing, and political candidates greatly benefit from the youth vote.

“Not everything (unfortunately) can change the culture by law, right?”

Alex Lee is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and he will be the first openly bisexual state legislator in California. 

“We haven’t had any state representation for the bisexual community, which I was surprised by, frankly. I didn’t even know that. But that kind of shows the depth of…what a lot of bisexual people feel,” said Lee.

The bisexual community is oftentimes overlooked because of bi-erasure, or bisexual invisibility. The LGBTQ+ community is diverse, and each of its groups deserve platforms and validity. Representation at the state level is a tremendous win for the bisexual community, and the queer community as a whole.

Lee said that he will “absolutely” be an advocate and spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community. (Alex Lee)

“So as important as it is to constantly change our laws and make sure we’re inclusive — in California we’re ahead of other states, but there’s still a lot more we can do — it’s also making sure we’re using our platforms to uplift voices. Because not everything (unfortunately) can change the culture by law, right? So we have to use our platforms and our voices to speak out, and shape opinion about, and educate people about our community,” said Lee.