Here’s What You Need To Know About Political Newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Democratic socialist and Queens native, unseated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley on June 26 in the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district.
This young Latinx activist and first-time politician had what is being called the biggest upset of the political season so far, shaking up her party to represent a district that is 49.80 percent Hispanic and includes parts of eastern Bronx and north-central Queens.
Here are some fast facts you need to know about Ocasio-Cortez.
1. She might become the youngest person elected in Congress.
At 28-years-old, Ocasio-Cortez could become the youngest politician in Congress. She is younger than the current youngest U.S. Representative, Elise Stefanik, who is 33-years-old.
2. Ocasio-Cortez proved that strong grassroots campaigns have power.
After her surprising win, Ocasio-Cortez told CBS News the average contribution to her campaign was $17. “We have blown through well past $200,000 for this race, all in small-dollar working-class kind of contributions,” she told CBSN in May.
She also refused to take any big-name donations from corporations. Her campaign was also all volunteer-led.
3. She has a major love for the Bronx because that’s her home.
Ocasio-Cortez was born in Queens and moved back to the Bronx after receiving a degree in economic and international relations from Boston University. During her time living in the Bronx, she worked for the National Hispanic Institute and helped high school and middle school students expand their community leadership and literacy skills as an educational director.
4. Her campaign video is simple yet powerful.
Ocasio-Cortez’s two minute-long campaign video has been viewed more than 330,000 times and starts out with “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.” With a statement like that, you know she is ready to be the change for her congressional district. In fact, the video is titled “The Courage to Change.”
5. She’s a Democratic Socialist.
Ocasio-Cortez says in her campaign video, “It’s time to fight for a New York that working families can afford,” alluding to her Democratic socialist roots. She honed that part while campaigning for Senator Bernie Sanders in New York back in 2016. An article by The Daily Beast said membership for the Democratic Socialists of America trended upwards after her victory.
6. Bernie Sanders congratulated her victory because it was truly a surprise victory.
Speaking of Bernie Sanders, he gave her a congrats post on Tuesday night, getting more ‘likes’ and RTs than his other congratulatory posts to another political candidate that night.
7. She flew under the radar in the campaign.
Ocasio-Cortez was seen as an outsider for her political views as much as her freshman status as a first-time political candidate. The New York Times didn’t even profile her before the race, but outlets including Refinery 29, El Nuevo Dia and NY1 did.
8. She worked for late Senator Ted Kennedy.
During college, she worked for the late Senator Ted Kennedy where she handled immigration casework for constituent families, as well as handling foreign affairs. She still values the lessons she learned under his guidance.
9. The issues she fights for are close to her heart.
Ocasio-Cortez ran on a platform of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and fighting for universal health care, tuition-free college and federal jobs guarantee. According to her campaign website, she says she knows what it is like to meet issues regarding immigration, financial distress and healthcare head-on because she lived through them with her own family.
10. She used to work as a waitress.
In order to help her family make ends meet during the middle of the recession, Ocasio-Cortez took 18-hour shifts working as a waitress and at two other jobs.
11. She is close to her family.
Her father was a Bronx-born small businessman who died from cancer at the age of 48. She is close with her Puerto Rican mother and took a sweet video with her that she posted on her Instagram story after her monumental victory, saying she was catching up after having an intense day of media interviews.
12. She was part of the Standing Rock protest.
Ocasio-Cortez has been a part of rallies and protests including Standing Rock pipeline protests in South Dakota, visits to Flint, Michigan to meet with local community members and headed to the border recently to protest the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
13. Next chapter—the White House?
Will Ocasio-Cortez be setting her sights on the Oval Office eventually? Her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, told the New York Post her daughter’s “aspiration is to be president.”
14. She refuses to entertain bad-faith debate proposals
Alexandria’s time is not for people who are just going to waste it. Case in point: conservative pundit and provocateur Ben Shapiro. Shapiro publicly offered Ocasio $10,000 to sit down and have a political debate with him. Recognizing the publicity stunt for what it was, she ignored his request. But Shapiro and his followers didn’t like this answer and made their disapproval clear on social media. Alexandria responded with this incredible comeback: “Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions. And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one.” Burn.
15. She’s had to set the record straight on her upbringing on more than one occasion.
Alexandria has been vocal about her love for the Bronx, where her family’s root go deep and where she’s lived for years. Unfortunately, some people are unhappy with that story. Conservative critic John Cardillo attempted to call her a fraud, stating that she lied about her “hood” upbringing. In addition, he claimed that she attended Brown University (an Ivy League) implying that she was part of the establishment she’s campaigned so hard against. Her response? “I didn’t go to Brown…I went to BU. [That neighborhood] was a good town for working people. My mom scrubbed toilets so I could live here…Your attempt to strip me of my family, my story, my home, and my identity is exemplary of how scared you are of the power of all four of those things.”
16. She’s not gonna let you get away with calling her a “Girl…or whatever”
When talking to a crowd of his supporters in Florida, GOP Congressman Ron DeSantis brought up Ocasio Cortez’s name as a talking point, saying “You look at this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is, she’s in a totally different universe…”. After his sexist remarks made headlines, Alexandria fired back on Twitter: “Rep DeSantis, it seems you‘re confused as to ‘whatever I am.’ I am a Puerto Rican woman. It‘s strange you don’t know what that is, given that ~75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 mos since María.” This “girl” knows how to write a clap-back.
17. She’s not going to let you get away with being a sore loser.
When the primary election results for District 14 came in, Rep. Joe Crowley was understandable, upset about the outcome. However, when Crowley didn’t concede, Alexandria decided to take to Twitter. She called out Rep Crowley for initially saying he would “absolutely support [her] candidacy”, but when he lost he “stood [her] up for all 3 scheduled concession calls.” It’s clear that Ocasio-Cortez expects the same respect from her peers as they would give to a more conventional candidate.
18. She’s a defender and will clap back at anyone who tries to disparage the accomplishments of minorities.
In trying to refute Ocasio’s claim that Puerto Rico is treated like a colony, conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza stated that normally, colonies “provide resources for the nation that rules them”. He then went on to ask Ocasio-Cortez what Puerto Rico “provides” to the US. Ocasio shut down that question really quick, rattling off a list of things PR “provides”, and then explaining to him that his question “comes from quite the colonial mindset of ‘what value is this territory providing us anyway?’”. And that’s how you handle ignorance with strength and grace.
19. Conservatives have compared her to a dictator.
After the people of Queens and The Bronx nominated her, the Republican party compared Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the current leader of Venezuela, President Madura. Specifically, they called her a “mini Maduro”, implying she supports anti-democratic policies. No one missed the fact that the GOP compared her to a negative Latinx figure, as opposed to a positive Socialist one. Alexandria responded saying that her policies are “more reminiscent of Norway than of Caracas”. She then blasted the Republican party for showing “comfort with and weakness towards the racism of this [administration]”.
20. She’s out to shut down blatant double standards in politics.
After appearing on The Daily Show, Ocasio-Cortez faced a barrage of criticism for erroneously stating that the military’s budget increased by $700 billion in 2017. In fact, it only rose by $61 billion. In true form, Ocasio-Cortez deftly and swiftly highlighted this double-standard. She brought up the time Senator James Inhofe pulled a snowball out of his pocket to prove that climate change was a hoax. How did the media react? The media hardly covered the incident and the public quickly forgot it. Coincidence? Probably not. Double standard? Definitely.