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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez[a] (born October 13, 1989), sometimes referred to by her initials AOC,[2][3][4] is an American politician and educator.[5][6] She is the U.S. Representative-elect for New York's 14th congressional district, elected on November 6, 2018.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez standing
Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th district
Assuming office
January 3, 2019
SucceedingJoe Crowley
Personal details
Born (1989-10-13) October 13, 1989 (age 29)
New York City, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationBoston University (BA)
WebsiteCampaign website

On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary in New York's 14th congressional district covering parts of the Bronx and Queens in New York City, defeating the incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, in what was described as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries.[12] Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.[13]

When she takes office on January 3, 2019, at the age of 29, Ocasio-Cortez will be the youngest woman to serve in Congress in the history of the United States,[14] a distinction that was previously held by New York Republican Elise Stefanik, who was elected at age 30 in 2014.[15]

Contents

Early life and educationEdit

Ocasio-Cortez was born in The Bronx, New York City, on October 13, 1989, to Blanca Ocasio-Cortez (née Cortez) and Sergio Ocasio.[16] Her father, an architect of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, while her mother was born in Puerto Rico.[17][18] Until age five, Ocasio-Cortez lived with her family in an apartment in the neighborhood of Parkchester.[18] The family then moved to a house in Yorktown Heights, a suburb in Westchester County.[18] Growing up, Ocasio-Cortez regularly visited her extended family in the Bronx.[19]

Ocasio-Cortez attended Yorktown High School, graduating in 2007,[20] where she won second prize in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a microbiology research project on the effect of antioxidants on C. elegans' lifespan.[21] As a result, the International Astronomical Union named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.[22][23] In high school, she took part in the National Hispanic Institute's Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session. She later became the LDZ Secretary of State while she attended Boston University. Ocasio-Cortez had a John F. Lopez Fellowship.[24] In 2008, while Ocasio-Cortez was a sophomore at Boston University, her father died of lung cancer.[25][26] During college, she was an intern in the immigration office of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.[27] She graduated cum laude from Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in international relations and a minor in economics.[24][28][29]

Ocasio-Cortez has described her background as working-class, and relates many of her political positions to it. When her father died intestate of lung cancer in 2008,[30] she became involved in a long probate battle to settle his estate. She has said that the experience helped her learn "firsthand how attorneys appointed by the court to administer an estate can enrich themselves at the expense of the families struggling to make sense of the bureaucracy".[31]

Early careerEdit

After college, Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx, while she worked as a bartender in Manhattan and as a waitress in a taqueria. Her mother, meanwhile, cleaned houses and drove school buses. After her father's death, Ocasio-Cortez and her mother struggled to fight foreclosure of their home.[32][33] With financial backing from Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, she established a publishing firm, Brook Avenue Press, which specializes in children's literature that portrays the Bronx in a positive light.[34] She worked as lead educational strategist at GAGEis, Inc.[35] Ocasio-Cortez was also an educator at the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute,[36] in which role she served as the Educational Director of the 2017 Northeast Collegiate World Series, where she participated in a panel on Latino leadership.[24]

In the 2016 primary, Ocasio-Cortez worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign.[37] After the general election, she traveled across America by car, visiting places such as Flint, Michigan, and Standing Rock, and speaking to people affected by the human rights violations related to the Flint water crisis and the Dakota Access Pipeline.[38] In an interview she recalled her visit to Standing Rock as a tipping point, saying that before that, she had felt that the only way to effectively run for office was if you had access to wealth, social influence, and power. But her visit to North Dakota, where she saw others "putting their whole lives and everything that they had on the line for the protection of their community", inspired her to begin to work for her own community.[39]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

2018 electionEdit

Ocasio-Cortez was among a slate of nationwide Justice Democrats/Brand New Congress candidacy announcements livestreamed on May 16, 2017.[40] In August 2017, she attended the Netroots Nation Conference in Atlanta, appearing on a panel with fellow candidates on "how to run a grassroots campaign that puts people above party".[41][42]

 
Ocasio-Cortez during an interview with Julia Cumming in December 2017.

Ocasio-Cortez was the first person since 2004 to challenge the Democratic Caucus Chair, Joe Crowley, in the Democratic primary. She faced a significant financial disadvantage, but said, "You can't really beat big money with more money. You have to beat them with a totally different game." Nearly 75% of her donations were small individual contributions, while less than one percent of Crowley's contributions were.[31] The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent $194,000 to the Crowley campaign's $3.4 million.[43]

Ocasio-Cortez answers interview questions in July 2018

Ocasio-Cortez has not previously held elected office,[17] and her campaign video began with her saying "Women like me aren't supposed to run for office."[44]

On June 15, the candidates' only face-to-face encounter during the campaign occurred on a local political talk show, Inside City Hall. The format was a joint interview conducted by Errol Louis, which NY1 characterized as a debate.[45] On June 18, a debate in the Bronx was scheduled, but Crowley did not participate. He sent former New York City Council member Annabel Palma in his place.[46][47][48]

Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by progressive and civil rights organizations such as MoveOn,[49] Justice Democrats,[50] Brand New Congress,[51] Black Lives Matter,[52] and Democracy for America,[37] and by gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who, like Ocasio-Cortez, also challenged a longtime incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, in the 2018 New York gubernatorial election.[53]

Governor Cuomo endorsed Crowley, as did both of New York's U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, 11 U.S. Representatives, 31 local elected officials, 31 trade unions, and progressive groups such as the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, among others.[54] California representative Ro Khanna, like Ocasio-Cortez a Justice Democrat,[55] initially endorsed Crowley, later also endorsing Ocasio-Cortez in an unusual dual endorsement.[56]

Following her win, Ocasio-Cortez explained her campaign strategy:

I knew that if we were going to win, the way that progressives win on an unapologetic message is by expanding the electorate. That's the only way that we can win strategically. It's not by rushing to the center. It's not by trying to win spending all of our energy winning over those who have other opinions. It's by expanding the electorate, speaking to those that feel disenchanted, dejected, cynical about our politics, and letting them know that we're fighting for them.[57]

Primary electionEdit

 
Ocasio-Cortez in June 2018

On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez received 57.13% of the vote (15,897) to Joe Crowley's 42.5% (11,761), defeating the 10-term incumbent by almost 15 percentage points.[58] Time called her victory "the biggest upset of the 2018 elections so far";[59] CNN made a similar statement.[8] The New York Times described Crowley's loss as "a shocking primary defeat on Tuesday, the most significant loss for a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade, and one that will reverberate across the party and the country".[37] The Guardian called it "one of the biggest upsets in recent American political history".[60] Her victory was especially surprising as she was outspent 18–1.[61] Merriam-Webster reported that searches for the word "socialism" spiked 1,500% after her victory.[62] In a sign of her outsider status, as of 11 p.m. on election day Crowley had not phoned Ocasio-Cortez; she believed he did not have her phone number and stated that she did not have his. Earlier in the evening, however, Crowley, an amateur guitarist, had played a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" at his election night watch party by way of conceding defeat, having dedicated it to Ocasio-Cortez.[63]

Bernie Sanders congratulated her, saying, "She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory. She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do."[11] Noam Chomsky saw her victory as "a quite spectacular and significant event". He believes her win shows a split in the Democratic Party and he thinks that "she was right in saying that the policies she's outlined should have broad appeal to a very large segment of the population."[64]

Several commentators noted the similarities between Ocasio-Cortez's victory over Crowley and Dave Brat's 2014 victory over Eric Cantor in the Republican primary for Virginia's 7th congressional district.[65][66] Like Crowley, Cantor was a high-ranking member in his party's caucus.[67] After her primary win, Ocasio-Cortez endorsed several progressive primary challengers to Democratic incumbents nationwide,[68] leveraging her fame and spending her political capital in a manner not usually seen even in unexpected primary winners.[69]

Without campaigning for it, Ocasio-Cortez won the Reform Party primary as a write-in candidate in a neighboring congressional district, New York's 15th, albeit with a total vote count of nine. She said she appreciated the show of support, but would decline the nomination.[70][71][b]

Media coverageEdit

 
Ocasio-Cortez at the Reardon Convention Center in Kansas City on July 20, 2018.

Many journalists faulted the traditional national news media (with a few exceptions such as CBSN) for not identifying, or even recognizing, the newsworthiness of Ocasio-Cortez's campaign.[72][73] Brian Stelter wrote that progressive media outlets such as The Young Turks and The Intercept "saw the Ocasio-Cortez upset coming".[66] Margaret Sullivan said that traditional metrics of measuring a campaign's viability, like total fundraising, were contributing to a "media failure".[73] Ocasio-Cortez was barely mentioned in print-media coverage until her primary election win.[74]

After her primary win, Ocasio-Cortez quickly garnered nationwide media attention, including numerous articles and TV talk-show appearances. She appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert[75] and The View in the first few days after the primary[76] and later on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.[77]

Ocasio-Cortez also drew a great deal of media attention when she and Bernie Sanders campaigned for James Thompson in Kansas in July 2018. A rally in Wichita had to be moved from a theater with a capacity of 1,500 when far more people said they would attend. The event drew 4,000 people, with some seated on the floor. In The New Yorker Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote that while Sanders remains "the de-facto leader of an increasingly popular left, [he is unable to] do things that do not come naturally to him, like supply hope." Wallace-Wells suggested that Ocasio-Cortez has made Sanders's task easier as he can point to her success to show that ideas "once considered to be radical are now part of the mainstream".[78]

Ocasio-Cortez received backlash after barring members of the media from attending her "listening tour" on August 8 in the Bronx and August 12 in Corona, Queens.[79][80][81]

Ocasio-Cortez has been the subject of negative press coverage from right-leaning media outlets since her Democratic primary win in June 2018.[82] Some news outlets, such as Fox News and the Washington Examiner, were criticized for their coverage that mocked Ocasio-Cortez's outfit choices.[83][84] In July 2018, conservative news outlet CRTV published a doctored video that featured footage of Ocasio-Cortez from a previous interview with PBS, spliced to appear as answers to questions read by CRTV commentator Allie Stuckey.[85] CRTV later added a discaimer that labeled the video as satire as well as providing a link to the original PBS interview.[85][86] Ocasio-Cortez said that there was a sexist double standard in how the media has treated her in comparison to young male politicians. She cited the example of Paul Ryan, who was also elected to Congress at age 28 but who was treated as a genius despite his "ill-considered policies," while she was treated with suspicion and derision.[87][88]

General electionEdit

 
Ocasio-Cortez canvassing in Queens during the electoral campaign, in August 2018.

Ocasio-Cortez faced Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the November 6 general election.[89] Pappas, who lives in Astoria, is an economics professor at St. John's University. According to the New York Post, Pappas did not actively campaign. The Post wrote that "Pappas' bid was a long shot," since the 14th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+29 and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost six to one.[90][91][92] Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by various politically progressive organizations and figures, including former President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.[93][94]

Crowley also remained on the ballot, as the nominee of the Working Families Party (WFP). Neither Crowley nor the party actively campaigned, with both having endorsed Ocasio-Cortez after her Democratic primary victory.[95] On July 17, former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who himself won reelection on a third-party line after losing the Democratic Primary in 2006, expressed hope that Crowley would actively campaign on the WFP ballot line in a column in the Wall Street Journal.[96] Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the WFP, wrote an endorsement of, and apology to, Ocasio-Cortez for the New York Daily News, and called on voters not to vote for Crowley if his name remained on the general election ballot.[97]

In August 2018, Ocasio-Cortez spoke at the Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans.[98]

Ocasio-Cortez won the election with 78% of the vote (100,044) to Pappas's 13.8% (17,762).[99] Her election was part of a broader Democratic victory in the 2018 midterm elections, as the party gained control of the House by picking up at least 39 seats.[100]

After the election, Ocasio-Cortez chose Justice Democrats co-founder Saikat Chakrabarti as her chief of staff.[101]

TenureEdit

116th CongressEdit

On the first day of congressional orientation, Ocasio-Cortez participated in a climate change protest outside the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.[102] Ocasio-Cortez backs Pelosi for Speaker of the House once the Democratic Party reclaims the majority in 2019, under the condition that she "remains the most progressive candidate for speaker."[103]

Ocasio-Cortez enters Congress with no seniority but with a large social media presence that could increase her influence in the House. Axios has credited her with as much social media clout as her fellow freshman Democrats combined. As of November 2018 she has 1.38 million Twitter followers and just under a million Instagram followers.[104]

Political positionsEdit

Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described democratic socialist.[105] She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.[13] She supports progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a job guarantee,[106] tuition-free public college, ending the privatization of prisons, and enacting gun-control policies.[107]

EducationEdit

Ocasio-Cortez campaigned in favor of tuition-free universities and public schools,[108] saying that "[f]or the cost of the GOP's tax bill, we could forgive ALL the student loan debt in the United States."[108][109]

EnvironmentEdit

Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described hardliner on environmental issues, calling climate change the "single biggest national security threat" facing the United States. She advocates for the United States to transition by 2035 to an electrical grid running on 100% renewable-energy production and end the use of fossil fuels. She also calls for a Green New Deal in the United States, in which the federal government would invest in the construction of large-scale green-infrastructure projects.[110]

Ocasio-Cortez has proposed "a select committee in the House to draft a plan that fits the proposal’s standards". Outlined in a draft resolution on her website, the proposal would mean "using nothing but renewable energy for electricity generation" and transitioning to renewable sources of energy "within 10 years of passing Green New Deal legislation", but does not provide details about how the US would move away from non-renewable power sources. It would also roll out a nationwide “smart” electrical grid and "mass energy-efficient building upgrades". Twelve Democrats in the new Congress have supported this resolution: Representatives Jared Huffman, Ro Khanna, John Lewis, Carolyn Maloney, Jose Serrano, Earl Blumenauer, Deb Haaland, Joe Neguse, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. Frank Pallone does not believe the committee should have legislative authority.[111]

HealthcareEdit

Ocasio-Cortez supports transitioning to a single-payer healthcare system, calling healthcare a human right.[112][108] She says that a single government insurer should ensure that every American has insurance, while reducing costs overall.[106] On her campaign website, Ocasio-Cortez says "Almost every other developed nation in the world has universal healthcare. It's time the United States catch up to the rest of the world in ensuring all people have real healthcare coverage that doesn't break the bank."[108]

ImmigrationEdit

Ocasio-Cortez supports a "path to citizenship" for immigrants who entered the United States legally and illegally.[113][114] She supports abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), calling it "a product of the Bush-era Patriot Act suite of legislation" and "an enforcement agency that takes on more of a paramilitary tone every single day".[115] She later clarified that this does not mean abolishing deportations.[116] She has called immigration detention centers operated by the Department of Homeland Security "black sites", citing limited public access to those locations.[117] Two days before the primary election, Ocasio-Cortez attended a protest at an ICE child-detention center in Tornillo, Texas.[118]

Criminal justice reformEdit

Ocasio-Cortez supports federal legalization of marijuana, banning private prisons and detention centers, releasing all nonviolent drug offenders, ending cash bail, and automatic, independent investigations whenever someone is killed by a police officer.[119]

Electoral reformEdit

Ocasio-Cortez has called for public financing of elections and a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. FEC, Buckley v. Valeo, and Speechnow v. FEC.[119] She also supports the replacement of the Electoral College with a National Popular Vote.[120]

Impeachment of President TrumpEdit

On June 28, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN she would support the impeachment of President Trump, saying, "I think that, you know, we have the grounds to do it." She cited Trump's alleged violations of the Emoluments Clause.[121][122]

Israeli–Palestinian conflictEdit

After 60 Palestinian protesters participating in the 2018 Gaza border protests were killed on May 14, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez criticized the Israel Defense Forces' use of deadly force,[123] tweeting,[124] "This is a massacre. I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can't be silent about this anymore."[125] In a subsequent interview, she said, "The idea that we are not supposed to talk about people dying when they are engaging in political expression just really moved me", and said that many constituents, including Jewish Americans, had thanked her for taking that position.[126] In an interview with the PBS series Firing Line, Ocasio-Cortez clarified that she is "a proponent of a two-state solution".[127]

After her primary victory, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami expressed his support for "a new generation of candidates who are more outspoken about their opposition to the policies of Netanyahu's far-right coalition and are eager to see the US play a more constructive role in making life better for both Israelis and Palestinians".[128]

Puerto RicoEdit

Ocasio-Cortez calls for "solidarity with Puerto Rico". She has advocated for granting Puerto Ricans further civil rights, regardless of Puerto Rico's legal classification. She also advocates for both voting rights and disaster relief. Ocasio-Cortez was critical of FEMA's response to Hurricane Maria and the federal government's unwillingness to address Puerto Rico's political status.[129] She believes the federal government should increase investment in Puerto Rico.[107]

Social issuesEdit

Ocasio-Cortez is supportive of the LGBT community, thanking its members for their role in her grassroots campaign.[130][107] She spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally in 2017.[131]

Amazon HQ2Edit

In mid-November 2018, Ocasio-Cortez came out against the selection of Long Island City in Queens as one of the two locations for Amazon HQ2. She expressed concern that Amazon would receive tax breaks while critical infrastructure, such as the New York City Subway was deteriorating and the city's public-school and health-care systems were underfunded. Ocasio-Cortez has also raised concerns about the affordability of housing in Queens, since housing prices around the HQ2 campus would rise as a result of the campus's construction.[132][133]

Awards and honorsEdit

The International Astronomical Union named the asteroid 23238 Ocasio-Cortez after Ocasio-Cortez when she was a senior in high school in recognition of her second-place finish in the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.[22][23] Ocasio-Cortez was named the 2017 National Hispanic Institute Person of the Year by Ernesto Nieto.[24]

Personal lifeEdit

Ocasio-Cortez has family in Puerto Rico, where her grandfather lived in a nursing home[129] before dying in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.[134] After Ocasio-Cortez's father's death in 2008, her mother and grandmother relocated to Florida due to financial hardship.[17][32] She described her Catholic faith and its impact on her life and her campaign for criminal justice reform in an article in America, the magazine of the Jesuit order in the United States.[135] At a 2018 Hanukkah party held by activist group Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, Ocasio-Cortez also announced that her family has Sephardic Jewish ancestry, but did not practice the faith.[136][137]

During the 2018 election campaign, Ocasio-Cortez resided in a one-bedroom apartment in Parkchester, Bronx,[6] with her boyfriend, Riley Roberts. They met at Boston University.[138]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ /ˌkɑːsi kɔːrˈtɛz/; Spanish: [oˈkasjo koɾˈtes].[1]
  2. ^ New York state law prohibits candidates from simultaneously running for two offices.[71]

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ CNN, Analysis by Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten, (July 2, 2018). "Did Democrats learn all the wrong lessons from Ocasio-Cortez's victory?". CNN. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "AOC stumps for the progressive, Abdul! The Last Primary Debate for Democratic Governor #StDD". Daily Kos. July 27, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  4. ^ Lipsitz, Raina. "AOC Responds to Her Critics | The Nation". ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
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  9. ^ Dan Merica and Eric Bradner (June 27, 2018). "The biggest night so far for progressives and other takeaways from Tuesday night's primaries". CNN. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2018. It was the most shocking result of 2018's political season so far ...
  10. ^ Resnick, Gideon (June 27, 2018). "Young Progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Topples Old Boss Joe Crowley in Democratic Primary Shocker". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2018. In one of the most shocking upsets in recent political history ...
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External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joe Crowley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th congressional district

Taking office 2019
Elect
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Elise Stefanik
Baby of the House
Taking office 2019
Designate