Vogel a Jewish, Latino and openly gay activist, is running for the 17th district in the Maryland House of Delegates in tomorrow’s election.

Joe Vogel campaigns in Rockville, Maryland for the upcoming election. Vogel is running for the 17th district seat in the House of Delegates and hopes to give underrepresented communities a voice in the state legislature (Photo courtesy of Joe Vogel).

By Ryan Mercado

For Mitzpeh

Joe Vogel, a 25-year-old Montgomery County resident, is running for delegate to represent the 17th district in the Maryland House of Delegates.

A recent alumnus of George Washington University and Harvard University, Vogel is one of many Generation Z candidates from diverse backgrounds running for office around the country this year.

“We need more young Democrats in office. If elected, I’ll be the youngest legislator in Annapolis,” Vogel tweeted. 

Along with his youth, Vogel also embraces his other identities: being Jewish, Latino, an immigrant and an openly gay man. 

“I’ve been very, very outspoken about those identities, in part because I think it makes me who I am, and I want people to understand that and understand my experiences and how those experiences will affect how I shape policy,” Vogel said in a recent interview.

Vogel is also open about his Jewish family’s hardships and how they shape his identity today. His great-grandparents fled Europe on the eve of the Holocaust. Then, his parents grew up under a repressive military dictatorship in Uruguay. 

Vogel was born in Uruguay, though his family moved to the United States and settled in Rockville, Maryland when was 3 years old. He grew up in the Rollins Park neighborhood, surrounded by other immigrant families where diversity was celebrated.

The communal connections Vogel built in his neighborhood and schools growing up have helped him campaign.

“One of the best memories in the campaign is that I got an email late one night during the campaign from my first grade teacher… she said, ‘I’m reaching out to see how I can help whether I can make phone calls,’” Vogel recalled. 

For Vogel, these anecdotes indicate how accepting his community has been to him and his family. “No matter what your background is, no matter who you are, what you look like or where you’re from, you are part of this community,” Vogel said.

However, despite communal acceptance, Vogel’s complex identities have often been confusing for him or those around him. He remembers he was often the first Latino or the first Jewish person that some of his peers met. On the campaign trail, Vogel recalls people were often confused that he could be both identities.

“You don’t meet a lot of Jews who are Latino, and you don’t meet a lot of Latinos who are Jewish. This has been the case over the course of my life. Where am I in these different spaces?” Vogel said. 

Vogel’s solution has been to embrace all parts of his identity. Within the last two months, Vogel celebrated Rosh Hashanah with Gubernatorial Candidate Wes Moore at a Gaithersburg Synagogue, attended an event speaking to local Latino community leaders and danced at a protest in Rockville to support trans youth.

Being an openly gay man also shapes Vogel’s policies as he seeks to uphold LGBTQ+ protections in Maryland when many politicians across the nation have enacted anti-LGBTQ+ laws, particularly Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. 

“You have a governor who’s spending more time trying to figure out how to harm LGBTQ+ kids than he is trying to figure out how to create more jobs,” Vogel said. 

Vogel pledged that if elected, he will be a “brick wall” against attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. He wants to make it a priority to reach out to groups whose voices he believes are not heard in politics.

“I think it’s important for people to see themselves in government,” Vogel said. 

Vogel is running in District 17, which encompasses Rockville and Gaithersburg in Montgomery County. The district elects three delegates to the Maryland House of Delegates. Vogel was one of three Democrats who won the Democratic Primary in July to advance to the general election. The district has exclusively elected all three of its delegates as Democrats for more than a decade. 

Voters will cast their ballots for the District 17 delegates tomorrow on election day.


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