Who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? 5 things to know about the New York congresswoman
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saw the lead she had over incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary, her face said it all.
“I cannot put this into words,” she told a NY1 reporter, visibly stunned as the results of her victory came in during the June 2018 primary.
Months later, at 29 years old, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress in the November 2018 midterm elections. Although her tenure as a congresswoman has been short, she's already made headlines, from floating a 70 percent tax on top earners to attacking fact-checkers for so-called "false equivalency."
Read on to find out more about Ocasio-Cortez.
She's the youngest woman in Congress
When Elise Stefanik won her congressional seat – also in New York – she became the youngest woman ever elected at 30 years old.
But Ocasio-Cortez, along with new Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, Ocasio-Cortez beat that record as they were both elected at 29 years old.
Ocasio-Cortez has never before held elected office and is still paying off her student loans, she previously told Elite Daily. She is a graduate of Boston University where she earned two degrees: economics and international relations.
She's a Bernie Sanders alumna
Corey Torpie/Courtesy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Campaign via AP (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez participates in a Bengali community outreach in New York.)
Ocasio-Cortez’s political experience lies in community organizing. She was an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid.
And her messaging during the campaign reflected her political closeness with Sanders; according to The New York Times, she placed an emphasis on smaller donors instead of wealthy corporate ones. In fact, she raised approximately $600,000 alone through small donors, Vox reported.
Sanders congratulated Ocasio-Cortez on her “extraordinary upset” in a tweet following her primary win.
“She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory,” the independent from Vermont said. “She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.”
She also worked for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, particularly on immigration casework and foreign affairs.
Ocasio-Cortez garnered support from progressives, including Cynthia Nixon
During her campaign, Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with Cynthia Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” actress who unsuccessfully ran against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the gubernatorial primary.
“The only way that you beat a machine is with a movement and the only way that this movement can sustain is if we start in good faith on shared values of a New York citizen. I think that is where Cynthia and I come together,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Cut after receiving Nixon’s endorsement. “I very much value the work and the impact that she has already made, due to the fact that she can go on ‘The View’ and talk about abolishing ICE. What we can do is tag-team this message so that every community can hear it that needs to hear it. And I think that that kind of solidarity across lines is very, very powerful.”
Aside from Nixon, Ocasio-Cortez was also endorsed by a bevy of liberal groups, including MoveOn and Our Revolution.
She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America
Progressive challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) is joined by New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon at her victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley. (Getty Images/Scott Heins)
Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which bills itself as the largest socialist organization in the U.S.
She told Vogue magazine that socialism, to her, means “democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social and racial dignity.”
“To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live. It’s to say that no individual’s civil rights are to be violated. And it’s to say that we need to really examine the historical inequities that have created much of the inequalities – both in terms of economics and social and racial justice – because they are intertwined,” she said.
She supports Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges, greater gun control, criminal justice reform and “housing as a human right.”
Ocasio-Cortez was one of the first congressional candidates to call for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal agency to be dissolved.
“As overseen by the Trump administration, ICE operates with virtually no accountability, ripping apart families and holding our friends and neighbors indefinitely in inhumane detention centers scattered across the United States,” her campaign website states. “Alex believes that if we are to uphold civic justice, we must abolish ICE and see to it that our undocumented neighbors are treated with the dignity and respect owed to all people, regardless of citizenship status.”
She grew up in the Bronx and helped support her family after the death of her dad
Born in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez was raised by a mother from Puerto Rico and a father who was a small business owner. After her father passed away from cancer in 2008, Ocasio-Cortez worked two jobs in the restaurant industry to help her family make ends meet.
After returning to the Bronx after college, Ocasio-Cortez pushed for greater childhood education and literacy, according to The New York Times. She also started a publishing company that produced books portraying the Bronx in a positive manner, The New York Daily News reported in 2012.
Her upbringing also helped her foray into politics, she told Elite Daily.
“Politics were talked about at the table every single day,” she said. “It’s the culture. In Puerto Rico, you talk about politics all the time, even when people disagree.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.