Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-time incumbent and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Joe Crowley in an upset in New York’s 14th Congressional District Primary on Tuesday night. The challenger had won 58 percent of the vote in the district when the Associated Press called the race. Crowley hadn’t faced a Democratic challenger in 14 years, and he won just 42 percent of the vote.
Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old woman of color running her first-ever campaign, attracted voters with a staunchly progressive platform, supporting the abolishment of ICE, a federal jobs guarantee, and Medicare for all. She’s also a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
“I’m an organizer, I’m an educator, I’m an activist,” she told Vogue, explaining her attraction to DSA. “There is no other force, there is no other party, there is no other real ideology out there right now that is asserting the minimum elements necessary to lead a dignified American life.”
Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx, inside the 14th District, but later moved to the more affluent suburb of Yorktown while her extended family stayed. She told Mic that this experience gave her a “reality and understanding of income inequality.”
She then went on to study at Boston University on scholarship and work for Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) from 2008 until his death in 2009. She says she didn’t envision herself becoming an elected official, but then the 2016 election happened. After Donald Trump was elected, she decided that the community she was born in needed to be represented by someone who reflected who she saw on a daily basis.
“We’re a district that covers the Bronx and Queens and Rikers Island,” she told the website. “Our median income is around $47,000 a year, we’re about 70% people of color. We’ve had the same representation for a generation.”
She has been on the front lines for diversity and minorities, stopping by an ICE detention center in Texas to protest immigrant family separations and immigration policies in the Trump era just last weekend. She called out to officers on the other side of the fence, “There’s no reason for this… These are human rights abuses.”
“We have families and communities here [in the 14th District] from Ecuador and Colombia, Bangladesh, Korea, Pakistan, and I see them every day, many of them are very scared about what's going on,” she told CNN. “With my campaign, in terms of immigration, we’re trying to say, ‘Hey, we've got your back.’”
Ocasio-Cortez fought hard in the primary, and all signs indicate that she won’t be giving Republican candidate Anthony Pappas an easy time in November.
“I do know that because of who I am, there are characteristics that people would be predisposed to think about me… [b]ut what I think is powerful is the fact that [my campaign uses] such unapologetic language while remaining composed,” she told Vogue. “Our democracy is designed to speak truth to power. Our democracy is designed for elections to be these kinds of conversations and referendums on our leadership.”