Puerto Rican American Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off one of the most stunning political upsets in American politics by defeating 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary in New York's 11th Congressional District.
At age 28, she is one of the youngest nominees for Congress ever. When she is elected in the genenal election in November, she will become the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. That distinction is currently held by New York Republican Elise Stefanik, who was elected at age 30 in 2014. Ocasio-Cortez will be 29 at the start of the 116th Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on a platform of Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college, and the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She supports ending the privatization of prisons and enacting gun control policies. A member of Democratic Socialists of America, she was endorsed by MoveOn, Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, Black Lives Matter, and Democracy for America. Two days before the primary election, she attended a protest at an ICE child detention center in Tornillo, Texas. Her campaign video began with her saying "women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the first Democrat to challenge Crowley to a primary race since 2004. Though she faced a significant financial disadvantage as a challenger, she was not dissuaded from running, saying: "You can't really beat big money with more money. You have to beat them with a totally different game." The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent only $300,000 in comparison to the $3 million spent by her opponent. She won with 57.5% of the vote to Crowley's 42.5%, defeating the 10-term incumbent with a full 15 percentage point vote advantage.
Time called her primary victory "the biggest upset of the 2018 elections so far." CNN echoed similar sentiments. Crowley's loss was described in The New York Times as "a shocking primary defeat on Tuesday, the most significant loss for a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade, and one that will reverberate across the party and the country." In the United Kingdom, The Guardian called her victory "one of the biggest upsets in recent American political history". She has not previously held an elected office.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born and raised in The Bronx, New York City. She attended Yorktown High School in Yorktown, New York, from 2003-2007. While a student at Boston University, she interned in the immigration office of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. Ocasio-Cortez graduated from Boston University in 2011, where she majored in economics and international relations. After college, she moved back to the Bronx and supported her mother by bartending at Flats Fix taqueria in Union Square, Manhattan, and working as a waitress. She also got a job as an educator in the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute. She worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential campaign.