A policial dark horse has been ousted as one of the House of Representatives’ top Democrats after winning the New York 14th (NY-14) Congressional District primary as a challenger.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina from the Bronx, won against 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley. She won more than 57 percent of the vote with Crowley lagging behind with a 42 percent of votes.
Ocasio-Cortez ran a campaign focused on the working class, education, healthcare and justice for all. She will go on to run in the midterm elections in November, where she is expected to defeat her Republican opponent, Anthony Pappas.
Ocasio-Cortez’s mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, was born in Puerto Rico. Her father, Sergio Ocasio, was born in the Bronx, where Ocasio-Cortez was born and raised. Throughout her education, Ocasio-Cortez was an avid student, showing an early interest in politics.
“There was nobody who could shut her up. I saw the political tendencies since she was very, very young,” Blanca Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with the New York Times.
Before running for Congress, Ocasio-Cortez was a waitress, children’s book publisher, campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Her focus on grass-roots work stemmed from her immigration work with Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). Ocasio-Cortez also protested the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation in 2016.
Ocasio-Cortez was initially hesitant about running for Congress. “I never really saw myself running on my own,” said Ocasio-Cortez to New York Magazine. “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.”
Ocasio-Cortez did not have to run on her own. After her protests at Standing Rock, Ocasio-Cortez was contacted by Brand New Congress, a progressive organization, that asked her to run for the House of Representatives. She won against Crowley, the progressive incumbent, in a district that has become more demographically diverse and younger since Crowley was first elected to the House in 1993.
“Is this [win] also unique to this kind of district?” asked Galen Druke of FiveThirtyEight, wondering if Ocasio-Cortez’s win shows where the ideology of the Democratic party is heading going into the 2018 midterms, or if her win can be attributed the kind of district she hopes to represent in Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez’s win is emblematic of the district she is poised to represent. NY-14 is a majority-minority district: a district where a majority of the constituents represent a demographic minority. Ocasio-Cortez emphasized this fact on the campaign trail as she sought to oust her opponent, a white male.
NY-14 is a solidly blue district where a Democrat was expected to win in November regardless of the candidate. In the 2016 presidential primaries, Bernie Sanders won the district by more than 41 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Ocasio-Cortez’s win may portend a larger pull to the left in the Democratic party.
In the aftermath of Ocasio-Cortez’s upset, she is using her newfound platform to champion other female candidates who are also considered to be long-shot candidates.
During her victory speech, Ocasio-Cortez expressed her support for fellow Democratic challengers Cori Bush of Missouri and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
“All my social media went nuts, my email went nuts, and donations took off exponentially,” Bush said to the New York Times after the endorsement.
While it is uncertain if Ocasio-Cortez’s win can be replicated in other parts of the country, veteran strategists and female candidates agree that her victory has encouraged a new collaborative model of politics, where candidates can band together to bring new energy to their grassroots campaign going into the elections in November
“What I’ve seen is a lot of activity on Twitter and Facebook of women saying, ‘Hey, pay attention to these other women,’” said Bush in an interview with the New York Times. “We were doing it before, but after Tuesday, now it’s like, ‘Hey, no, pay attention, because this is for real. These women can win if we just get behind them.’”