We’re going to be hearing the name Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a lot. Ocasio-Cortez – who Vogue recently said “might just be the future of the Democratic party” – led a grassroots campaign and defeated 10-term Democrat Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, in Tuesday’s primary. Despite Crowley, aka the “King of Queens,” raising far more money than Alexandria, she pulled off a stunning upset. When she learned she beat the incumbent candidate, the shock was written all over face.
“I cannot put this into words,” she said. “I cannot believe these numbers right now, but I do know that every single person here has worked their butt off to change the future of the Bronx and Queens.”
Her victory shows the power of crowdfunded political campaigns and proves that people are ready to move away from out-of-touch, establishment Democrats.
“We have had our country on autopilot and we’ve been accepting what’s been happening,” she told Refinery29. “And what’s happening in this country is indicative that we need new leadership. We need new leadership in the Democratic Party and we need new leadership in the country.”
In honor of the 28-year-old, first-time politician’s triumph, here are five things you should know about congressional candidate Alexandria.
She grew up in the Bronx.
Alexandria grew up in New York’s 14th District, which stretches from the Bronx to Queens. “I grew up first generation in the Bronx,” she told Remezcla. “Mi mamá limpiaba casas, my dad had a little small business that struggled the majority of the time with me growing up. I, myself, when my family was struggling to make ends meet, I had a day job and I waitressed and I bartend, and I was shoulder-to-shoulder with undocumented people in the back of house.”
She's a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Alexandria is a member of the largest socialist organization in the country. Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which bills itself as the largest socialist organization in the US. “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,” she told Vogue. “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 promoted education and literacy in the Bronx.
Before getting into the grassroots movement, she worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on immigration issues as a student at Boston University. But when she moved back home, she decided to shift focus. In her early 20s, she started a book publishing company to paint her hometown in a different light and she promoted education and literacy in the borough.
She never saw herself as a political candidate.
Despite also working for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Alexandria never thought she’d end up in this position. “I never really saw myself running on my own,” she told New York magazine. “I counted out that possibility because I felt that possibility had counted out me. I felt like the only way to effectively run for office is if you had access to a lot of wealth, high social influence, a lot of dynastic power, and I knew that I didn’t have any of those things.”
In 2016, she protested against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which set her political career in motion.
She ran on a progressive platform.
Alexandria has consistently said that we need to be more progressive. Her platform included Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges, and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“ICE is a mess,” she told Remezcla. “And there isn’t a single Democrat that’s an incumbent member of Congress that is really fighting back – that’s, like, really saying: End it! End it! ICE was established in 2003 in the same suite of legislation as the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, the AUMF. We look at that entire legislative history with shame. But ICE is the only thing we don’t talk about with that. Why is that? Because ICE operates outside of the scope of the Justice Department. They have no accountability to due process. They have no accountability to enforcing civil rights, which is why they violate all of those things flagrantly.”