Six months ago, you’d be forgiven for not having heard of Alexandria Oscario-Cortez. That changed on June 26th when the then 28-year-old New Yorker pulled off the biggest electoral upset of 2018: defeating one of the top Democrats in the U.S House of Representatives in her first ever debate.
Ocasio-Cortez beat Joe Crowley, a 10-term establishment Democrat and a favourite to become Speaker of the House (he hadn’t lost a primary in 14 years) in the party’s 14th congressional primary, dominating with just under 58 per cent of the vote.
At the time, the young democratic socialist said, “This victory belongs to every single grassroots organiser, every parent, every mum, every member of the L.G.B.T.Q. community”, she said as the numbers were confirmed. “Every single person is responsible for this.”
The youngest-ever congresswoman in US history, Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in in the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected to the House, alongside the first Muslim women and the first Native-American women.
Below, everything to know about Ocasio-Cortez.
1. She Was Bartending And Serving Tables Last Year
Less than a year ago, Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender and waited tables while her political campaign gained momentum. On an Instagram post last year she wrote, “The funny thing about new beginnings is that you rarely know you’re in them. My beginning was losing a parent to cancer, working a hard job in the wake of that loss, and complete uncertainty about the future of my family.”
Ocasio-Cortez would work 18-hour shifts to financially aid her mother after her father’s passing.
2. She Ran A Low Budget Campaign
The 29-year-old raised approximately $300K and spent $194K on her campaign in comparison to her opponent Joe Crowley, who raised over $3.3 million and spent $3.4 million on his campaign.
Ocasio-Cortez emphasised that her funds were from small donors. Her homemade video campaign, which went viral, was shot in her local bodega with the assistance of her family and volunteers.
3. She Was Raised in the Bronx
Ocasio-Cortez comes from humble beginnings, growing up in a working-class community in the Bronx: her mother was a house cleaner and her father was a small business owner. “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” she said in a recent campaign ad. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family.”
4. She Was An Organiser For Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Democratic Presidential Bid
Senator Bernie Sanders showed his admiration and support for Alexandria in a statement 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.”
5. She’s University Educated
Ocasio-Cortez is a graduate of Boston University, where she studied economics and international relations.
6. Her Campaign Had the Support Of Many Celebrities
The uprising young politician has received numerous celebrity endorsements including New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and actress Mara Wilson from Broad City. Nixon spoke highly of the newcomer telling Politico, “Alexandria and I are joining together to take on the old boys’ club, rejecting corporate money and run people-powered campaigns that envision a progressive New York that serves the many, not just the few who can afford to buy influence.”
7. She Is The Youngest Congresswoman Ever Elected
At age 29, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest congresswoman ever elected, taking the title from Elise Stefanik, who assumed office at the age of 30 in 2015. Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in on January 4th, 2019 in the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected to the House.