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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded by Joe Crowley
Personal details
Born October 13, 1989 (1989-10-13) (age 30)
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education Boston University (BA)
Signature
Nickname(s) "AOC"

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (/ˌkɑːsi kɔːrˈtɛz/; born October 13, 1989), also known by her initials as AOC, is an American politician and activist. She became the U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district in 2019. This includes the eastern part of the Bronx and parts of north-central Queens in New York City. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic Party's primary election on June 26, 2018. She beat Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in what was seen as the biggest upset victory in recent American political history. She later won the general election, beating Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in November 2018.

At age 29, she became the youngest woman ever become a member of the United States Congress. She has become well known for her use of social media. She majored in international relations and economics at Boston University. She was an activist, volunteered for Bernie Sanders's first presidential campaign and worked part-time as a waitress and bartender before running for Congress in 2018.

Ocasio-Cortez is one of the first female members of the Democratic Socialists of America elected to Congress. She is a progressive and supports Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, the Green New Deal, ending the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, free public college and trade school, and a 70% marginal tax rate for income above $10 million.

Early life

Parkchester, Bronx (35145740091)
Ocasio-Cortez has lived in Parkchester in The Bronx for a long time.

Ocasio-Cortez was born into a Catholic family in the Bronx borough of New York City on October 13, 1989. She is the daughter of Blanca Ocasio-Cortez (née Cortez) and Sergio Ocasio. She has a younger brother named Gabriel. Her father was born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican family, and her mother was born in Puerto Rico. She called her Puerto Rican community united, saying, "We are black; we are indigenous; we are Spanish; we are European." She lived with her family in an apartment in the Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester until she was five. Her family later moved to a house in suburban Yorktown Heights.

Ocasio-Cortez went to high school in Yorktown Heights, graduating in 2007. In high school and college, she was known as "Sandy." She came in second in the Microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a microbiology research project on the effect of antioxidants on the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans. To thank her for her efforts into the project, MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a small asteroid after her. In high school, she took part in the National Hispanic Institute's Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session. She later became the LDZ Secretary of State while she attended Boston University. Ocasio-Cortez had a John F. Lopez Fellowship.

In 2008, while Ocasio-Cortez was a sophomore at Boston University, her father died of lung cancer. She became involved in a long legal battle to settle his estate. She has said that the experience helped her learn how attorneys are corrupt and make themselves rich while their clients, like families, were being ignored.

During college, Ocasio-Cortez was an intern for U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. She said of her time while working for Kennedy, "I was the only Spanish speaker" which was why "people would come to the office and go to her saying that a relative had been caught by ICE".

Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University with a BA in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics.

Early career

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Ocasio-Cortez volunteered for Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign

After college, Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx and took a job as a bartender and waitress to help her mother fight foreclosure of their home. She later created Brook Avenue Press, a publishing press used to print papers or books that told positive stories about The Bronx. She also worked for the National Hispanic Institute.

During the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, Ocasio-Cortez volunteered for Bernie Sanders's first presidential campaign. After the general election, she traveled to places like Flint, Michigan, and Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota by car. She spoke to people affected by the Flint water crisis and the Dakota Access Pipeline. She said her visit to Standing Rock was an important reason why she ran for Congress. Before that, she believed that the only way to run for office and win was to have money and power. In North Dakota she saw others "putting their whole lives and everything that they had on the line for the protection of their community." This inspired her to begin to work for her own community. One day after she visited North Dakota, she got a phone call from Brand New Congress, which was looking for progressive candidates. Her brother had nominated her soon after the 2016 election.

2018 campaign

AOC for Congress 2018 logo
Ocasio-Cortez's congressional campaign logo

Ocasio-Cortez began her campaign in April while working at Flats Fix, a taco restaurant in New York City's Union Square. Her campaign was small with Ocasio-Cortez saying that "80% of her campaign worked out of a paper grocery bag hidden behind the eatery's bar". She gave out campaign buttons from her job at the bar. She was the first person since 2004 to run against Joe Crowley, the Democratic Caucus Chair, in the primary. She did not have much money for the campaign, saying, "You can't really beat big money with more money. You have to beat them with a totally different game." Ocasio-Cortez's campaign did not take donations from big companies or rich people, like Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. Her campaign posters' were inspired from "revolutionary posters from the past."

Ocasio-Cortez was supported by progressive and civil rights groups such as MoveOn, Black Lives Matter, and Democracy for America, and by actress Cynthia Nixon. Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of New York's U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Planned Parenthood supported Crowley. California Representative Ro Khanna at first supported Crowley but later supported Ocasio-Cortez.

Primary victory and reaction

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Ocasio-Cortez ran against twenty-year incumbent Joe Crowley

On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez won 57.13% of the vote (15,897) to Joe Crowley's 42.5% (11,761). Time called her victory "the biggest upset of the 2018 elections so far"; CNN made a similar comment. The New York Times said Crowley's shocking loss was "the most [biggest] loss for a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade." The Guardian called it "one of the biggest upsets in recent American political history." Crowley raised more money, $1.5 million, compared to Ocasio-Cortez's $83,000. Merriam-Webster said that searches for the word "socialism" went up 1,500% after she won. Crowley accepted his loss but did not call Ocasio-Cortez that night to congratulate her. Many thought he was going to run against her in the general election with a third party.

Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky congratulated her. Many people said that her victory over Crowley was like when Dave Brat's, a Tea Party movement candidate, beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary in 2014. Cantor was also a longtime congressman and high-ranking party politician. After her primary win, she supported many progressive candidates who decided to run against current Democratic politicians across the country.

Ocasio-Cortez won the Reform Party nomination without campaigning for it. She won it as a write-in candidate in a congressional district nearby hers. She won only nine votes. She did not accept the nomination.

General election

Kerri Evelyn Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 1
Ocasio-Cortez with a supporter in September 2018

Ocasio-Cortez ran against Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the November 6 general election. Pappas is an economics professor at St. John's University. Ocasio-Cortez was supported by many progressive organizations and politicians, including former President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Joe Crowley stayed on the ballot, as the nominee of the Working Families Party (WFP) and the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). Neither Crowley nor the WFP party campaigned in the election, with both supporting Ocasio-Cortez after her Democratic primary victory. Ocasio-Cortez said that the WEP, which Governor Andrew Cuomo created, was a centrist group that supported male politicians over female politicians like her and Cynthia Nixon. Nixon ran against Governor Cuomo in the primary for New York Governor. Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman wanted Crowley to campaign on the WFP ballot to beat Ocasio-Cortez. Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the WFP, asked voters not to vote for Crowley if his name was on the general election ballot.

Ocasio-Cortez won the election with 78% of the vote (110,318) to Pappas' 14% (17,762). Crowley, on the WFP and WEP ballots, won 9,348 votes (6.6%). Her election was part of a larger wave of Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections, as the party won control of the United States House of Representatives.

Media coverage

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Ocasio-Cortez at the 2019 South by Southwest

The first media network to talk about Ocasio-Cortez and give her time to talk about her campaign was The Young Turks (TYT). After her primary win, she quickly had nationwide media attention. A rally with Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders in Wichita had to be moved from a theater with a seating capacity of 1,500 when more people said they would go to the rally. 4,000 people went to the event, with some sitting on the floor. In The New Yorker wrote that she had made Sanders's progressive ideas more popular to a larger group of people.

Until she beat incumbent Joe Crowley in the 2018 Democratic primary, Ocasio-Cortez had little coverage. Many commentators saw the lack of focus on her campaign and her eventual victory as a "media failure."

The Young Turks have continued to cover Ocasio-Cortez and defend her from political critics who see her as "outsider in Washington."

She was one of the people talked about in the 2018 Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 11/9.

In an act to embarrass Ocasio-Cortez just before she took office, Twitter user "AnonymousQ" shared a video of Ocasio-Cortez's during her college years dancing. Many social media users defended her, and the video inspired memes. She responded by posting a video of herself dancing to Edwin Starr's War.

In 2019, Elizabeth Warren wrote the entry on Ocasio-Cortez for that year's Time 100. In January 2019 the documentary Knock Down the House about four female Democrats, without political experience, running for Congress in the 2018 midterms premiered. Ocasio-Cortez was the only one of the women in the documentary to win their election. It was released by Netflix on May 1, 2019.

United States representative, 2019–present

Tenure

Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in on January 3, 2019 by Nancy Pelosi, becoming the youngest woman to become a United States Representative.

She began her career with a popular social media following "as much social media clout as her fellow freshman Democrats combined." As of February 2020, she had 6.3 million Twitter followers, up from 1.4 million in November 2018 and passed Nancy Pelosi's number of followers. By July 2019 that had risen to almost 4.8 million, or about seven times the population of her congressional district. She had 2.2 million Instagram and 500,000 followers on Facebook when she began. Some Representatives asked her to teach them social media lessons when she arrived in Congress.

In an interview Ocasio-Cortez said she had stopped using her private Facebook account and was lowering her usage of all social media accounts, calling them a "public health risk."

Ocasio-Cortez is a member a group of newly elected progressive members of Congress called "The Squad" along with Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). In July 2019, President Donald Trump attacked the Squad in a tweet, saying that they should "go back and help fix" the countries they came from instead of criticizing the American government. Ocasio-Cortez replied that "the President's words [yesterday], telling four American Congresswomen of color "go back to your own country," is [the] language of white supremacists. We don't leave the things that we love, and when we love this country, what that means is that we [find] the solutions to fix it."

AOC-office-postitnotes
Ocasio-Cortez's congressional office covered with sticky notes from supporters

Trump falsely said that she called "our country and our people 'garbage'"; she had actually said that Americans should not be happy with average ideas that are "10% better from garbage." Trump also falsely claimed that she said "illegal immigrants are more American" than Americans who tried to keep them out. She actually said that "women and children on that border that are trying to [find] refuge and opportunity" in America "are acting more American" than those who tried to keep them out.

Arrival

In November 2018, on the first day of congressional orientation, Ocasio-Cortez participated in a climate change protest outside of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office. Also that month, she supported Pelosi becoming Speaker of the House saying she would support Pelosi if Pelosi "remains the most progressive candidate for speaker," noting that all the other candidates for speaker were more conservative than Pelosi was. The House of Representatives voted Pelosi Speaker after the Democratic Party gained the majority.

In December 2018, during the orientation for new members of the House hosted by the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter about the effects of business interests by groups such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies: "Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where's labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?"

In January 2019, when she made her first speech on the floor of Congress, C-SPAN tweeted the video. Within 12 hours, the video of her four-minute speech set the record as C-SPAN's most-watched Twitter video by a member of the House of Representatives.

Hearings

In February 2019, speaking during a Congressional hearing, Ocasio-Cortez questioned the ethic regulations that both the president and members of Congress had. She said that no regulations stop lawmakers "from being bought off by wealthy corporations." With more than 37.5 million views, the clip became the most-watched political video posted on Twitter.

When President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was at a Congressional hearing in February 2019, Ocasio-Cortez asked him whether Trump had risen property values for bank or insurance purposes. Cohen said that Trump may have committed tax evasion and fraud in his personal and business tax returns, financial statements and real-estate documents. The New York Times supported her for "laying down specific questions for specific [answer]."

Media coverage

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Ocasio-Cortez with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, June 2019

According to reports in March 2019, Ocasio-Cortez continued to get media coverage early in her congressional career similar to a 2020 presidential candidate. She was called "one of the faces of the Democratic party" and one of the most talked-about politicians in the United States. Between July 8 and July 14, 2019, she had more social media attention than any of the Democratic presidential candidates, with news articles on Ocasio-Cortez had 4.8 million views, while no Democratic presidential candidate got more than 1.2 million.

Ocasio-Cortez has been talked about many times on Fox News, being mentioned every day from February 25 to April 7, 2019, for a total of 3,181 mentions in 42 days. CNN found that from January to July 2019, she had nearly three times as many mentions on Fox News as on CNN and MSNBC. In a CBS News poll of almost 2,100 people found that more Republicans were aware of Ocasio-Cortez than Democrats. She was very unpopular among Republicans and very favored among Democrats.

In March 2019, PolitiFact reported that she is "one of the most targeted politicians for hoax claims, despite the fact that she just entered Congress as a freshman." Fake quotes, fake photos, and false rumors about her have spread on social media.

On July 18, 2019, Charlie Rispoli, a police officer from Gretna, posted on Facebook a threat to shoot her. He called her an "idiot" who "needs a round, and I don't mean the kind she used to serve" as a bartender. Rispoli posted the comment in response to a "fake news" article that falsely quoted Ocasio-Cortez as saying "We pay soldiers too much." Rispoli was fired for his post and his Facebook account was deleted.

Green New Deal

The Green New Deal was the first piece of legislation that Ocasio-Cortez wrote

On February 7, 2019, Ocasio-Cortez wrote her first piece of legislation, the Green New Deal, and sent it to the Senate. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts supported the deal, laying out the main ideas of a 10-year economic plan that would slowly remove fossil fuel use. Their plan called for adding the "social cost of carbon" that was part of the Obama administration's plans to fix climate change. The plan would create jobs and boost the economy. According to CNBC, the first version of the Green New Deal wanted the "complete ditching [of] fossil fuels, upgrading or replacing 'every building' in the country and 'totally overhaul[ing] transportation' to the point where 'air travel stops becoming necessary.'" The plan set a goal of having the United States "creating 'net-zero' greenhouse gases in 10 years." Ocasio-Cortez said that "We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast."

Ocasio-Cortez wanted a marginal tax as high as 70% on income above $10 million to pay for the Green New Deal. According to tax experts in The Washington Post, this tax would bring in extra revenue of $720 billion per decade. She used the Modern Monetary Theory as a reason for higher deficits to pay her agenda. She said that the Green New Deal needs deficit spending like President Franklin D. Roosevelt's original New Deal during the Great Depression.

Not one Republican supported the Green New Deal. The plan had support from some Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker. Other Democrats, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not support it, with Pelosi calling it "the green dream, or whatever they call it."

On March 26, in what Democrats called a "stunt" and unfair, Senate Republicans called for an early vote on the Green New Deal without letting anyone talk before the vote. Senator Ed Markey said Republicans were trying to "make a mockery" of the Green New Deal debate and called the vote a "sham." In protest, Senate Democrats voted "present" or against the bill, resulting in a 57–0 defeat on the Senate floor. In March 2019, a group of activists, inspired by Ocasio-Cortez, in the United Kingdom wanted the Labour Party to create a similar plan, "Labour for a Green New Deal."

Committee assignments

Political views

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and supports the democratic socialist name of the group as part of her political beliefs. In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, she said that democratic socialism is a "part of what I am. It's not all of what I am. And I think that that's a very important [difference]." During an interview on PBS, she was asked if democratic socialism would to end capitalism, and she answered: "Ultimately, we are marching towards progress on this issue. I do think that we are going to see a [change] in our economic system of an [unknown level], and it's hard to say what direction that that takes."

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Ocasio-Cortez with Senator Bernie Sanders, December 2018

Ocasio-Cortez supports progressive policies such as single-payer Medicare for All, tuition-free public college and trade school, a federal job guarantee, the cancellation of all $1.6 trillion student debt, guaranteed family leave, ending U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and private prisons, creating safer gun-control policies, and energy policy that would use 100% renewable energy. She told Anderson Cooper that she supports policies that "...most closely resemble what we see in the United Kingdom, in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden."

Ocasio-Cortez supported Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential election and appeared with him at campaign rallies. In January 2020, director Michael Moore and her replaced Sanders at a rally at the University of Iowa while he was at the Senate's impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez wants more environmental politicians in Congress, calling climate change as "the single biggest national security threat" for the United States and the world. With the United Nations saying that the effects of climate change cannot be undone unless carbon emissions are slowed down in the next 12 years, she said, "Millennials and people—you know, Gen Z and all these folks that will come after us are looking up and we’re like: ‘The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?'"

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Ocasio-Cortez with Senator Ed Markey talking about the Green New Deal, February 2019

Ocasio-Cortez has supported ending the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. She compared the agency to the Patriot Act and to a paramilitary-like agency. In June 2018, she said she would support ending the agency and she would rather "create a pathway to citizenship for more immigrants through decriminalization." She later said that this does not mean ending all deportations. Two days before the primary election, she went to a protest at an ICE child-detention center in Tornillo, Texas. She was the only Democrat to vote against H.R. 648, a bill to fund and reopen the government, because it would give more federal money to ICE.

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Ocasio-Cortez at the 2019 New York City Women's March

Ocasio-Cortez supports moving to a single-payer health care system, saying that medical care is a human right. In September 2019, she created an anti-poverty policy proposal that would make the cost of childcare, health care, and "new necessities" like Internet access when measuring poverty. The proposal would stop rent prices going higher and create better ways for people with convictions and immigrants to have social welfare programs.

Ocasio-Cortez is a supporter of LGBTQ rights and equality. She has said she supports the LGBTQ community and thanked its members for their role in her campaign. In January 2019, she gave a speech in support of laws needed to keep LGBTQ rights in jobs and everywhere in the country. She has also made a point of raising awareness for transgender rights, saying, "It's a no-brainer ... trans rights are civil rights are human rights."

Ocasio-Cortez has been supportive of Puerto Rico. Ocasio-Cortez did not approve of Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to Hurricane Maria and that the federal government did not talk about Puerto Rico's political status. She believes the federal government should pay more attention to Puerto Rico.

Awards

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory named the asteroid 23238 Ocasio-Cortez after her when she was a senior in high school because she finished in second-place in the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She was named the 2017 National Hispanic Institute Person of the Year by Ernesto Nieto. In 2019, She received the Adelle Foley Award. She was named as one of the 2019 BBC 100 Women.

Personal life

After the death of Ocasio-Cortez's father in 2008, her mother and grandmother moved to Florida because of money problems. She still has family in Puerto Rico, where her grandfather was living in a nursing home before he died during Hurricane Maria.

Ocasio-Cortez talked about her Catholic faith and why it is important for her life and her campaign for criminal justice reform in an article she wrote for America. At a December 2018 Hanukkah celebration in New York, she said that she has Jewish ancestry, although she does not practice Judaism.

During the 2018 election campaign, Ocasio-Cortez lived in Parkchester, Bronx, with her boyfriend, web developer Riley Roberts.

In 2019, Ocasio-Cortez was named as one of the 2019 BBC 100 Women.

In 2020, Ocasio-Cortez was a guest judge on an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race.

Electoral history

2018 New York's 14th congressional district Democratic Primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 16,898 56.7
Democrat Joseph Crowley (incumbent) 12,880 43.3
Total votes 29,778 100.0
2018 New York's 14th congressional district general election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 110,318 78.2
Republican Anthony Pappas 19,202 13.6
Working Families Joseph Crowley 8,075 5.7
Women's Equality Joseph Crowley 1,273 0.9
Total Joseph Crowley (incumbent) 9,348 6.6
Conservative Elizabeth Perri 2,254 1.6
Total votes 141,122 100.0
Democrat hold


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