On Tuesday evening (June 26), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took another giant step to potentially become the youngest woman elected to Congress, CNN reports (she needs to win over Republican Anthony Pappa in November’s elections to attain this feat). While running her first campaign, the Bronx native defeated Joe Crowley (D-NY) who’s held his seat in New York’s 14th district (formerly the 7th district) since 1999.
For Ocasio-Cortez, this moment has been a long time coming. According to Elite Daily, the 28-year-old’s relationship with politics has been nurtured since she was a kid growing up in a Puerto Rican household.
“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.” In a statement issued to The New York Times, her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez said, “There was nobody who could shut her up. I saw the political tendencies since she was very, very young.”
After graduating from Boston University in 2011 with degrees in economics and international relations, Ocasio-Cortez became a teacher at the National Hispanic Institute, and worked as a bartender in Manhattan’s Flats Fix Taco Y Tequila Bar to help support her family after her father’s passing in 2008.
Now that she’s fully elected, Ocasio-Cortez plans to spearhead initiatives that’ll make the cost of college easily affordable, implement universal healthcare, and tackle the city’s housing crisis while encouraging other young people to run for office: “We need an entire generation to start taking up these seats.”
Before she confirms an oath of office, here’s a little bit of background on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s beginnings and her plans for the future.
According to the New York Daily News, Ocasio-Cortez established Brook Avenue Press in 2012, an outlet that promotes “parent-child literacy education” and publishes positive stories of the Bronx in opposition of letting society’s bleak views define the borough. Around that same time, Ocasio-Cortez was a part of an entrepreneur program, The Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, which provided funding for a bevy of startups in the community.
In 2016, the New Yorker supported another native, Bernie Sanders, during his race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Prior to that, she worked on Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) team. Ocasio-Cortez is also a part of the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization that attempts to “decrease the influence of money in politics.” Through her previous work, Ocasio-Cortez believes running a grassroots campaign aided in her win.
“It was an advantage, actually, because our community here really wanted to do something and they didn’t want to feel like they were choosing to organize the campaign over choosing to comment and organize around this moment,” she said.
The Bronxite has remained steadfast in fighting for the people when it comes to the basic necessities. She’s visited the places most affected by tainted water in Flint, Mich., and at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota to place a halt on the Dakota Access Pipeline. In an interview with Jezebel’s “The Slot,” Ocasio-Cortez shared that visiting Standing Rock partly influenced her desire to run for office.
“I saw a fossil fuel corporation that had literally militarized itself against American people, and I saw that our incumbents in both parties were defending them and were silent,” she said. “And I just felt like we’re at a point where we can’t afford to be silent anymore, and we can’t afford to sit out a political process that we may have grown very cynical over. And in order for us to change course, and change the future, it’s going to take people who haven’t typically been seen or thought of as a typical candidate.”
In the same interview with The Slot, Ocasio-Cortez said women politicians and organizers like Paula Jean Swearengin, Cori Bush, Linsey Fagan, Lucy Flores, and Ayanna Pressley – who became the first black woman to be elected to the Boston City Council – all paved the way for this moment to happen.
Part of her policies will concern the end of ICE, a government-funded company that’s received an increase in a wave of criticism for its enforced regulations on immigration. Ocasio-Cortez’s platform was partly influenced by the community members she’s encountered of different backgrounds from Ecuador to Pakistan. “…many of them are very scared about what’s going on. With my campaign, in terms of immigration, we’re trying to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got your back.'” She recently visited one of ICE’s detention center’s in Texas earlier this month.