Gen Z Candidate Launches Campaign That Ignores His Generation’s Priorities

Democrat Isaiah Martin’s platform for his Texas congressional race indicates support for Israel — and makes no mention of climate change.

Isaiah Martin appears in a campaign video as he runs for Congress in Texas’s 18th Congressional District on Sept. 6, 2023. Photo: Elise Swain; Video: Isaiah Martin for Congress

A Texas congressional candidate who launched his campaign on Wednesday with an appeal to be the next Gen Z member of Congress quickly brought in $130,000 — and also deleted the “issues” page of his website.

Isaiah Martin is running in Texas’s 18th Congressional District, a safe blue seat that covers much of Houston. In his campaign launch, the 25-year-old denounced Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans for leading an “attack on democracy” and voting rights.

“What we’re seeing right here in Texas is just a snapshot of what’s going on all across the nation when extremists with no vision try to hold onto power with division,” Martin said.

Portions of Martin’s platform — as well as what he left out of it — indicate that he may be out of step with voters of his generation, who, by virtue of their concerns with human rights and the climate crisis, as well as their own personal identities, are vessels for political change.

In the “First Bills to Co-Sponsor” section of his website, Martin listed a congressional resolution titled “Recognizing Israel as America’s Legitimate Democratic Ally.” It was introduced last February while Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., fended off bad-faith claims of antisemitism that led to her expulsion from the Foreign Affairs Committee. (Omar co-sponsored the resolution.) Since then — even as Israel has maintained and ramped up its brutal regime over Palestinians — Congress has passed a resolution declaring that “the State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state,” and that the U.S. “will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.” The candidate has also vocalized his unwavering support for Israel on X, previously known as Twitter — even as Democrats have recently, and for the first time, become much more sympathetic toward Palestinians than Israelis.

Martin’s inclusion of the bill is the latest sign that support for Israel will continue to be a fault line in congressional primaries. In the 2022 cycle, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC spent some $40 million, most of it aimed at defeating progressive candidates and those who spoke up for Palestinian rights — or in favor of election denialists, racists, and homophobes. 


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Earlier this summer, a congressional candidate launched his campaign in another Houston-area district with a direct challenge to AIPAC, which had endorsed his opponent, incumbent Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. “In reality, Israel is an apartheid state that commits atrocities against native Palestinians on a daily basis,” Pervez Agwan said to The Intercept. “That is something that should absolutely be criticized but unfortunately, Republicans and establishment Democrats are too concerned with offending the Israel lobby who bankrolls their campaigns to be honest about what’s going on.”

Martin’s campaign did not respond to The Intercept’s questions in time for publication.

While the majority of young people voted for President Joe Biden in 2022, 52 percent of Gen Z voters identify as independents, while only 31 identify as Democrats. For many young people, it’s not enough for someone to just call themselves a Democrat.

“Poll after poll has shown that young people care most about bold climate action, Medicare for All, and other progressive policies,” Aidan Kohn-Murphy and Elise Joshi of the political advocacy group Gen-Z for Change told The Intercept in a statement. “We’re grateful to have members of Congress such as Congresswoman [Summer] Lee and Congressman [Jamaal] Bowman who stand up for Gen Z and speak truth to power even when it’s not politically expedient. We look forward to the emergence of other candidates who prioritize the issues Gen Z cares about.”

Martin’s platform, which his campaign removed from its website on Wednesday night, included support for the pro-worker Protecting the Right to Organize Act and reproductive freedom bills. (An archived version of the website remains viewable.)

While his campaign site included pages on issues like voting rights and gun violence, one notable omission was climate change — a dire issue for his generation. A 2021 Pew Research survey found 37 percent of Gen Z adults — those born after 1996 — say that addressing climate change was their top personal concern. The page also did not include any mention of LGBTQ+ rights, even as roughly 20 percent of Gen Z identify as LGTBQ+, and state legislatures, including in Martin’s own Texas, are ramping up their attacks on queer people around the country. 

On health care, Martin endorsed a public option over universal health care. “When the time comes, Isaiah will enthusiastically vote yes to create a public option across the United States — an optional government-run healthcare plan that will expand coverage to all Americans while preserving access to private insurance for those who want it,” his website read.

Texas’s 18th District district has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate and House candidate since 1972. It voted for Biden at a clip of 76-23 in 2020, and similarly, in 2022, for its current House occupant Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee at a roughly 45-point margin.

Martin announced his bid while Jackson Lee runs for mayor of Houston. Jackson Lee can still run for her old seat if she does not win the mayoral race in November, and she has not endorsed any candidate to replace her. Martin has been interning with Jackson Lee for two years, according to the Houston Chronicle. He interned for her congressional office from June 2021 to July 2022 and more recently volunteered with her mayoral campaign. (On LinkedIn, he lists himself as a senior adviser to the campaign.)

Martin’s work with Jackson Lee is part of a spanning resume. In 2019, he created #ForTheStudents, a student advocacy group at the University of Houston. He went on to lead efforts to provide sexual assault services to Houston-area students and to expand voting access on campus. Martin briefly ran for Houston City Council earlier this year, before dropping out in March to “help other candidates get elected this cycle.” 

Also according to LinkedIn, Martin has worked as a consultant at MRM Consulting Services, a government contract consulting firm owned by his father, Ronnie Martin. The business’s website described how Ronnie Martin has worked on “competitive proposals for major technical and aerospace and commercial companies,” which have included the Department of Defense, and work with foreign government proposals like the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence.

Isaiah Martin’s social media posts are another sign of his hard-to-pin-down ideology.

After former Secretary of State Colin Powell died in 2021, Martin took to TikTok to mourn the death of the man whose record includes peddling the Iraq War-justifying lie of “weapons of mass destruction.” “Rest in peace to a true American hero. He’s always somebody who stood up for what he believes was right, no matter what,” Martin said. “We need more people like Colin Powell.”

In another TikTok, Martin blamed “violent, repeat offenders” being released on bond for an increase in crime, expressing his support for a constitutional amendment in Houston to increase cash bond, allowing fewer people to be released pretrial. The author of the amendment, Democrat state Sen. John Whitmire, is running for mayor against Martin’s boss, Jackson Lee.

In February 2020, Martin posted an Instagram photo alongside Abbott, the Texas governor, sitting in front of campaign signs for Republican state House candidate Angelica Garcia. Garcia’s top contributors included Abbott’s own campaign and billionaire Harlan Crow. Three years later, Martin would name-drop the governor in his campaign launch. “Greg Abbott and his allies have created laws that have taken polling places away from line cooks working the night shift. They’ve thrown out mail ballots from seniors who can’t drive. And they’ve empowered the state to have the ability to overturn election results.”

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