Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an American Democratic Socialist who made headlines in 2018 when, at the age of 28, she beat out a 10-term New York Democrat incumbent in a congressional primary.
Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
On June 26, 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bronx native, made history when she thoroughly defeated 10-term New York Democratic congressman Joe Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district in the state's Democratic primary, with close to 58 percent of the vote. It was her first time running for office, and as a Democratic Socialist of Puerto Rican descent, her stunning victory over the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House was a boon to the progressive change that many liberal voters have been demanding.
Despite Crowley's 10-to-1 fundraising advantage over Ocasio-Cortez, the latter carried out a smart and organized grassroots campaign, along with a powerful viral video ad that began with her stating: "Women like me aren't supposed to run for office." Ocasio-Cortez was the first opponent in the Democratic party to challenge Crowley's seat in 14 years.
"This is not an end, this is the beginning," she said during her victory speech. "This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it's not OK to put donors before your community."
If Ocasio-Cortez wins the midterm election over her Republican opponent, Anthony Pappas, she will become the youngest female ever elected to Congress.
As an active member of the Democratic Socialists of America who also helped organize for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016, Ocasio-Cortez ran on a progressive platform — abolishing ICE, criminal justice reform, tuition-free college and universal healthcare.
"Our campaign was focused on just a laser-focused message of economic, social and racial dignity for working-class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx," Ocasio-Cortez said during an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe after her primary win. "We were very clear about our message, very clear about our priorities and very clear about the fact that even if you've never voted before we are talking to you."
Early Life and Education
Born to a working-class Puerto Rican family in the Bronx, New York, Ocasio-Cortez graduated from Boston University, majoring in economics and international relations, and later worked for Senator Ted Kennedy's office where she focused on immigration issues.
After graduation, she returned home and became a community organizer. However, with the recession taking hold, along with the financial issues her family faced after her father's death in 2008 from cancer, Ocasio-Cortez took multiple low-wage restaurant jobs to help keep them afloat.