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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Ready to Shake Things Up in Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking to a Bronx resident. Photo by Kerri Evelyn Harris from Flickr.

Congress is getting ready for some fresh faces next January.

As of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) officially became the elected representative for New York’s 14th congressional district. At only 29 years old, the Bronx-native is the youngest elected member of Congress.

Many admire her for her outspoken honesty, progressive ideas, and strong ties to her Bronx and Queens community. Many also fear her lack of experience and ideas might seem “too idealistic.” One thing is for certain: the success she has achieved in her political career so far is unlike anything we have seen before.

So who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Raised by working-class Puerto Rican-parents, Ocasio-Cortez grew up and received her primary education in Bronx, New York, before attending Boston University to receive a BA in economics and international relations. When her father passed away of cancer, Ocasio-Cortez and her mother struggled to retain family inheritances. The hardships she went through during the process contributed to her desire to be involved in politics to find better ways of administration and management.

Early career

Ocasio-Cortez had interned as a college student for the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s immigration office. After graduating from Boston University, she worked as a bartender and subsequently expanded her ambitions by taking on educator positions at the National Hispanic Institute and being a member of the LatinX leadership panel in the 2017 Northeast Collegiate World Series. She furthered her political career by being Bernie Sander’s campaign organizer for his 2016 election campaign.

“I knew we could be better.”

Nine months before the primary elections in June earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez decided to run for Congress. Having lived in the Bronx her whole life, Ocasio-Cortez has gained a transparent understanding of what her community lacked and needed. In a live interview, she stressed that the Bronx needed representation that “put our voters and our communities first.”

Prior to her announcement to run for Congress, the Bronx had been represented by 20-year incumbent Joseph Crowley, who currently resides in Virginia. Crowley put himself up for reelection but made no campaign efforts in the process, assuming there was no imminent competition and underestimating Ocasio-Cortez’ standings.

“I did everything people told me not to do.”

Ocasio-Cortez ran an “unapologetic, clean” grassroots campaign that aimed for “economic, social, and racial dignity for all working class Americans.” She appealed to not only locals, but also to first-time voters while knocking on doors, handing out flyers and participating in communal gatherings to spread word of her campaign.

While many expected she would not reach the funding she needed, Ocasio Cortez managed a campaign that entirely omitted financial support from corporate PACs as she felt it unnecessary to form relationships with sources that simultaneously backed politicians of the opposing party.

Mainstream media have called her victory in the Democratic House primaries one of the “most stunning” upsets they have seen, and her most recent victory in this week’s midterms is only going to further the excitement of having a young woman of color holding office. Her journey to Congress is an inspiration for young Latinxs to take future part in political office and other prominent leadership roles.

As a Democratic socialist, what are some of the things Ocasio-Cortez supports?

  • Free medicare
  • Renewable energy economy
  • Tuition-free college
  • Paid family leave
  • Tighter gun control
  • Cut in privatization of prisons

Watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ victory speech from Tuesday:

Ocasio-Cortez is packing her bags and heading toward Washington, where her new term as elected representative will begin on January 3rd.

Vivian Wang

Vivian is a travel enthusiast and food connoisseur living in New York City. Her curiosity and passion for languages and culture has taken her across eight countries over the past year. When not working, you can find her meandering in art museums or sampling food at the street markets.

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