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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (born October 13, 1989) is an American politician, educator, community organizer, and political activist of Puerto Rican ancestry.[1] 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 has been described as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm-election season.[2][3][4][5][6] Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and has been endorsed by various politically progressive organizations and people.[7]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez July 2018 (cropped2).jpg
Ocasio-Cortez in July 2018
Personal details
Born (1989-10-13) October 13, 1989 (age 28)
New York City, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education Boston University (BA)
Website ocasio2018.com

Contents

Early life and education

Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx, New York City,[8] on October 13, 1989, to Blanca Ocasio-Cortez (née Cortez) and Sergio Ocasio. Her father, an architect, was also born in the Bronx, while her mother was born in Puerto Rico.[9][10] Until age five, Ocasio-Cortez lived with her family in an apartment in the neighborhood of Parkchester.[10] The family then moved to a house in Yorktown Heights, a suburb in Westchester County.[10] Growing up, Ocasio-Cortez regularly visited her extended family in the Bronx.[11]

From 2003 to 2007, Ocasio-Cortez attended Yorktown High School,[12] where she won second prize in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a research project on microbiology. As a result, the International Astronomical Union named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.[13][14] In high school, she took part in the National Hispanic Institute's Lorenzo de Zalvala (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.[15] During college, she was an intern in the immigration office of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.[16] She graduated cum laude from Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in economics and international relations.[15][17][18]

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,[19] 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."[20] She credits seeing the treatment of her cousin by law enforcement, as well as her Catholic faith, for her desire to overhaul mass incarceration in the criminal-justice system.[21]

Early career

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.[22][23] With financial backing from Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, she established a publishing firm, Brook Avenue Press, that specializes in children's literature which portrays the Bronx in a positive light.[24] She worked as lead educational strategist at GAGEis, Inc.[25] Ocasio-Cortez was also an educator at the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute,[26] 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.[15]

After finding out she had been purged from the New York voter rolls and could not vote in the 2016 primary, Ocasio-Cortez worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]

2018 House of Representatives campaign

Ocasio-Cortez was among a slate of nationwide Justice Democrats/Brand New Congress candidacy announcements livestreamed on May 16, 2017.[30] 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".[31][32]

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 percent of her donations were small individual contributions, while less than 1 percent of Crowley’s contributions were.[20] The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent $194,000 to the Crowley campaign's $3.4 million.[33]

Ocasio-Cortez has not previously held elected office,[9] and her campaign video began with her saying "Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office."[34]

On June 15, the single face-to-face encounter between the candidates 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.[35] On June 18, a debate in the Bronx was scheduled, but Crowley did not participate. He sent former member of the New York City Council, Annabel Palma in his place.[36][37][38]

Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by progressive and civil rights organizations such as MoveOn,[39] Justice Democrats,[40] Brand New Congress,[41] Black Lives Matter,[42] and Democracy for America,[27] and by gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who, like Ocasio-Cortez, is also challenging a longtime incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, in the 2018 New York gubernatorial election.[43]

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.[44] California representative Ro Khanna, like Ocasio-Cortez a Justice Democrat,[45] initially endorsed Crowley, later also endorsing Ocasio-Cortez in an unusual dual endorsement.[46]

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."[47]

Primary election

On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez received 57.13 percent of the vote (15,897) to Joe Crowley's 42.5 percent (11,761), defeating the 10-term incumbent by almost 15 percentage points.[48] Time magazine called her victory "the biggest upset of the 2018 elections so far";[49] CNN made a similar statement.[3] 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."[27] The Guardian called it "one of the biggest upsets in recent American political history".[50] Her victory was especially surprising as she was outspent 18-1.[51] Merriam-Webster reported that searches for the word "socialism" spiked 1500 percent after her victory.[52] 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, did play a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" at his election night watch party as a way of conceding defeat, dedicating it to Ocasio-Cortez.[53]

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."[6] 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."[54]

At 28 years old, Ocasio-Cortez is one of the youngest nominees for Congress. If elected, she would be the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House Of Representatives. That distinction is currently held by New York Republican Elise Stefanik, who was elected at age 30 in 2014.[55] Ocasio-Cortez will be 29 at the start of the 116th Congress.

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.[56][57] Like Crowley, Cantor was a high-ranking member in his party's caucus.[58] Since her primary win, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed several progressive primary challengers to Democratic incumbents, leveraging her fame and spending her political capital in a manner not usually seen even in unexpected primary winners.[59]

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.[60][61][a]

Media coverage

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.[63][64] Brian Stelter wrote that progressive media outlets such as The Young Turks and The Intercept "saw the Ocasio-Cortez upset coming".[57] Margaret Sullivan said that traditional metrics of measuring a campaign's viability, like total fundraising, were contributing to a "media failure".[64] Wikipedia did not have an article on her until her electoral win,[65] and Ocasio-Cortez was barely mentioned in print-media coverage until around the same time.[66]

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[67] and The View in the first few days after the primary[68] and later on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.[69] Conservative Allie Stuckey also aired a fake interview.[70]

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.”[71]

Ocasio-Cortez received backlash in August 2018 after barring members of the media from attending her "listening tour" on August 8 in the Bronx and August 12 in Corona, Queens.[72][73][74]

General election

Ocasio-Cortez will face Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the November 6 general election.[75] Pappas, who lives in Astoria, is an economics professor at St. John's University. According to the New York Post, Pappas has not actively campaigned, and because the 14th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+29 and contains six registered Democrats for every Republican, "Pappas' bid is a long shot."[76][77][78]

Crowley also remains on the ballot, as the nominee of the Working Families Party (WFP). Neither Crowley nor the party is actively campaigning, with both having endorsed Ocasio-Cortez after her Democratic Primary victory.[79] On July 17, former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who himself won reelection on a third-party line after losing the Democratic Primary in 2006 (see United States Senate election in Connecticut, 2006), expressed hope that Crowley would actively campaign on the WFP ballot line in a column in the Wall Street Journal.[80] 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 remains on the general election ballot.[81]

Political positions

Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described democratic socialist.[82] She supports progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a job guarantee,[83] tuition-free public college, ending the privatization of prisons, and enacting gun-control policies.[84]

Education

Ocasio-Cortez campaigned in favor of tuition-free universities and public schools,[85] saying that "[f]or the cost of the GOP’s tax bill, we could forgive ALL the student loan debt in the United States."[85][86]

Environment

Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described hardliner on climate issues. 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.[87]

Healthcare

Ocasio-Cortez supports transitioning to a single-payer healthcare system, calling healthcare "a human right".[88][85] She says that a single government insurer should ensure that every American has insurance, while reducing costs overall.[83] 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."[85]

Immigration

Ocasio-Cortez supports a "path to citizenship" for immigrants who entered the United States legally and illegally.[89][90] 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".[91] She has called immigration detention centers operated by the Department of Homeland Security "black sites", citing limited public access to those locations.[92] Two days before the primary election, Ocasio-Cortez attended a protest at an ICE child-detention center in Tornillo, Texas.[93] Ocasio-Cortez said in 2018 that ICE was required to meet a quota of 34,000 detainees, which The Washington Post and PolitiFact described as an "urban legend" and "false", respectively.[94][95]

Impeachment of President Trump

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 violations of the Emoluments Clause.[96][97]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

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,[98] tweeting, "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."[99] 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.[100] In an interview with the PBS series Firing Line, Ocasio-Cortez clarified that she is "a proponent of a two-state solution."[101]

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".[102]

Puerto Rico

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.[103] She believes the federal government should increase investment in Puerto Rico.[84]

Social issues

Ocasio-Cortez is supportive of the LGBT community, thanking its members for their role in her grassroots campaign.[104][84] She spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally in 2017.[105]

Awards and honors

Ocasio-Cortez was named the 2017 National Hispanic Institute Person of the Year by Ernesto Nieto.[15]

Personal life

Ocasio-Cortez has family in Puerto Rico: her grandfather lives in a nursing home there.[103] After Ocasio-Cortez's father's death in 2008, her mother and grandmother relocated to Florida due to financial hardship.[9][22]

Notes

  1. ^ Current New York state law prohibits candidates from simultaneously running for two offices.[62]

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