Who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? 5 things to know about the New York congressional candidate

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saw the lead she had over incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary, her face said it all.

“I cannot put this into words,” she told a NY1 reporter, visibly stunned as the results of her victory came in. “I cannot believe these numbers right now, but I do know that every single person here has worked their butt off to change the future of the Bronx and Queens.”

At 28 years old, Ocasio-Cortez ran her campaign with a relatively low budget and remained steadfastly and unapologetically liberal. She called out Crowley, a 56-year-old who has been in Congress since 1999, for being associated with groups aligned with President Trump and Republicans.

Crowley is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the fourth-highest ranking position in Democratic leadership in that chamber of Congress.

“The community is ready for a movement of economic and social justice,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That is what we tried to deliver.”

She was outspent 18-1 in the primary election for the 14th district and even told The Associated Press that she did not have enough money to do polling for the race.

Ocasio-Cortez will face Anthony Pappas, a Republican, in the general election.

Read on to find out more about Ocasio-Cortez.

She could become the youngest woman in Congress

When Elise Stefanik won her congressional seat – also in New York – she became the youngest woman ever elected at 30 years old.

At 28 years old, Ocasio-Cortez could beat Stefanik’s record.

Ocasio-Cortez has never before held elected office and is still paying off her student loans, she previously told Elite Daily. She is a graduate of Boston University where she earned two degrees: economics and international relations.

She is a Bernie Sanders alumna

Corey Torpie/Courtesy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Campaign via AP

Corey Torpie/Courtesy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Campaign via AP (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez participates in a Bengali community outreach in New York.)

Ocasio-Cortez’s political experience lies in community organizing. She was an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid.

And her messaging in the primary seems to reflect her political closeness with Sanders; according to The New York Times, she placed an emphasis on smaller donors instead of wealthy corporate ones. In fact, she raised approximately $600,000 alone through small donors, Vox reported.


Sanders congratulated Ocasio-Cortez on her “extraordinary upset” in a tweet.

“She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory,” the independent from Vermont said. “She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.”

According to her campaign website, she also worked for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, particularly on immigration caseworks and foreign affairs.

Ocasio-Cortez garnered support from progressives, including Cynthia Nixon

During her primary campaign, Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with Cynthia Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” actress running against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the gubernatorial primary. Nixon, a progressive, has already been credited with pushing Cuomo more to the left on some issues in that race.

“The only way that you beat a machine is with a movement and the only way that this movement can sustain is if we start in good faith on shared values of a New York citizen. I think that is where Cynthia and I come together,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Cut after receiving Nixon’s endorsement. “I very much value the work and the impact that she has already made, due to the fact that she can go on ‘The View’ and talk about abolishing ICE. What we can do is tag-team this message so that every community can hear it that needs to hear it. And I think that that kind of solidarity across lines is very, very powerful.”

After her victory, Nixon said, “Here in New York, the progressive revolution has begun, and we could not be more proud to be a part of that movement.”

Aside from Nixon, Ocasio-Cortez was also endorsed by a bevy of liberal groups, including MoveOn and Our Revolution.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro extended his congratulations to Ocasio-Cortez on social media.

“She ran an inspiring, energetic campaign and the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District responded,” Castro said.

She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America

Progressive challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) is joined by New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon at her victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley.

Progressive challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) is joined by New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon at her victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley. (Getty Images/Scott Heins)

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which bills itself as the largest socialist organization in the U.S.

She told Vogue magazine that socialism, to her, means “democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social and racial dignity.”

“To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live. It’s to say that no individual’s civil rights are to be violated. And it’s to say that we need to really examine the historical inequities that have created much of the inequalities – both in terms of economics and social and racial justice – because they are intertwined,” she said.


Her platform included Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges, greater gun control, criminal justice reform and “housing as a human right.”

Calling it the “Eric Cantor moment” for the Democratic Party, Mother Jones magazine heralded Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign of tacking more to the left than Crowley, who the liberal publication said was “a reliable progressive vote in Congress.” It points out that Ocasio-Cortez was one of the first congressional candidates to call for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal agency to be dissolved.

“As overseen by the Trump administration, ICE operates with virtually no accountability, ripping apart families and holding our friends and neighbors indefinitely in inhumane detention centers scattered across the United States,” her campaign website states. “Alex believes that if we are to uphold civic justice, we must abolish ICE and see to it that our undocumented neighbors are treated with the dignity and respect owed to all people, regardless of citizenship status.”

She recently went to Tornillo, Texas, to protest against policies that have separated parents from their children at the southern border.

“We have had our country on autopilot and we’ve been accepting what’s been happening,” she has told Refinery29. “And what's happening in this country is indicative that we need new leadership. We need new leadership in the Democratic Party and we need new leadership in the country.”

She grew up in the Bronx and helped support her family after the death of her father

Born in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez was raised by a mother from Puerto Rico and a father who was a small business owner. After her father passed away from cancer in 2008, Ocasio-Cortez worked two jobs in the restaurant industry to help her family make ends meet.

After returning to the Bronx after college, Ocasio-Cortez pushed for greater childhood education and literacy, according to The New York Times. She also started a publishing company that produced books portraying the Bronx in a positive manner, The New York Daily News reported in 2012.

Her upbringing also helped her foray into politics, she told Elite Daily.

“Politics were talked about at the table every single day,” she said. “It’s the culture. In Puerto Rico, you talk about politics all the time, even when people disagree.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.