This week, at just 28 years old, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat out longterm Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District. In fact, she was only 8 years old when he first took his political throne. Even before the stunning upset, she was being hailed as the future of the Democratic Party—and now she’s being credited with leading the changing of the (demographic) guard in Congress. (And of course, Twitter has fallen in love, too.) After all, she could bring some serious youthful energy to DC: If the Bronx native prevails over Republican Anthony Pappas in November as expected, she’ll be the youngest person in Congress (and among the youngest to ever serve in the Capitol).
So, who is this real-life superwoman (hey, even Lin-Manuel Miranda is a fan!)—and where did she soar in from?
Get to know the woman behind this historic accomplishment a little better—hey, it just might inspire you to throw your hat into the ring in your community.
1. She ran her historic campaign “out of a Trader Joe’s bag” for the first five months
While most politicians have millions of dollars at their disposal for their campaigns, Ocasio-Cortez started her journey in politics with a grocery bag. Running as a socialist (another historic aspect of her campaign), she basically added campaigning (and canvassing) as a second job: “I started my campaign out of a Trader Joe’s bag with a bunch of printed palm cards and an idea. I did that for five months,” she told Elite Daily. And even as her campaign grew, she only had $128,000 of funding compared to the $2.78 million Crowley had, because she refused to take donations from corporate PACs.
2. She’s still paying off her student loans from Boston University
#Relatable. She graduated from Boston University in 2011 with degrees in economics and international relations and is still, like many, dealing with the struggle years later—even with the help of scholarships, jobs, and working as a tutor during her college years: “Oh heck yes. I’m definitely still paying these off,” she says.
3. She’s running on a platform of single-payer health coverage
With health insurance costs that are steadily rising, 12.2 percent of all adults aren’t able to afford it. Because of that, Ocasio-Cortez is campaigning for “Medicare for all,” which would grant health coverage similar to what is provided to seniors in the US—AKA the so-called single-payer option. Not only would this be a huge deal for families working jobs that don’t provide health benefits, but it would also be a game-changer for gig-economy millennials—about half of whom are freelancers.
The funny thing about beginnings is that you rarely know you’re in them. My beginning felt like a dead end. 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. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This whole campaign started because the Bronx and Queens deserves leadership that is accountable to people over profits, and dares to pursue the most ambitious plan possible for our children’s future. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I fight for Medicare for All because I know what it’s like to feel like you’re one accident away from everything falling apart. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I push for Cradle-to-College + trade school education FOR ALL because I know that it’s wrong to have your destiny determined by your zip code. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And lastly, I don’t take a dime from corporations because I know it’s the only way we get it done. No favors, no kickbacks, no short-changing working families and selling our futures to major corporations. Not ever. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Everyday Americans deserve better. We deserve a nation of opportunity for all. Of justice for all. Of dignity for all. And we will get it. #Ocasio2018 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 📸: @josealvarado
4. She’s so new to politics, she was still bartending until recenty
After college, Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx from Boston to work as an educator at the National Hispanic Institute. Unfortunately, due to the devastating loss of her father from cancer, her family suffered major financial strain. Because of that, she took on multiple jobs to support the ones she love, some of which had her working 18-hour shifts. And as of last November, she was still bartending.
5. She jumped into politics in a very “future is female” way
Those who knew Ocasio-Cortez before her big win were sure she was going to do big things—including Claire Wasserman, Well+Good Council member and founder of Ladies Get Paid. Ocasio-Cortez—who’s also a member of the community—declared a career change to public service at a town hall event last year in front of 100 women, and that moment has stuck with Wasserman ever since.
“She wanted to run for office, and despite the odds against her, she was going to do it. Everyone in the room cheered; we could feel something special happened that night,” she tells Well+Good. “Alexandria’s win is so much bigger than her. Women have been underestimated or told to wait our turn for most of history. We’re not accepting that anymore. Whether or not the world is ready for us, it doesn’t matter. We are ready and Alexandria has shown that through knocking on enough doors, we are well on our way to knocking through the glass ceiling.”
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