Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the millennial, socialist political novice who’s now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history in the 2018 midterm elections.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history in the 2018 midterm elections.
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Rick Loomis/Getty

29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history in November by becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez, a self-declared Democratic socialist, beat veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s congressional primary election in June in a shocking upset and went on to win 78% of the vote in the general election.

Less than a year ago, the political novice was working as a bartender to help support her working-class family.

Scroll down to learn more about her.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to a working-class family. Her mom is Puerto Rican and her dad is a Bronx native.

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Scott Heins/Getty

“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” she said in a recent campaign ad. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family.”

Source: Ocasio 2018


Her parents were disappointed in their local schooling system, so her extended family helped fund a move to a better school district.

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Scott Heins/Getty

Shuttling between the Bronx, New York’s poorest borough and the home of her extended family, and more affluent New York counties was her first experience of income inequality, she told The Intercept.


She went to Boston University, where she studied economics and international relations. After graduation she took up bartending and waitressing jobs to supplement her mother’s income as a housecleaner and bus driver.

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Boston University Questrom School of Management/Facebook

Source: The Intercept


Less than a year ago she was still working as a bartender in Manhattan.


You can see her in this promotional photo for Flats Fix, a taqueria in Union Square, Manhattan.


The primary in June 2018 was Ocasio-Cortez’s first run for office, but she had experience in politics. In college she worked for Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts on immigration issues, and she was an organizer for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign.


Sanders congratulated Ocasio-Cortez shortly after her primary election win. “She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory,” he said in a statement. “She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.”

Source: The Hill


Her campaign centered on a progressive platform advocating Medicare for everyone, a universal jobs guarantee, and immigration and criminal-justice reform.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2018

Read more: This is the platform that launched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old democratic socialist, to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress


Here’s her platform in full.


She has been particularly outspoken against President Donald Trump and his immigration policies, having amped up calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement following the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting all adults who illegally cross into the US.


In June she traveled to the US-Mexico border to directly confront border officers outside a center for detaining children.

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Joe Raedle/Getty

“These are human-rights abuses,” you can hear her shout to border guards in the video below.


She ran a low-budget campaign, raising about $200,000 mainly through small contributions. Her campaign video, which went viral, was made by two fellow democratic socialists. She wrote the script herself, shot it in her local bodega, and had her family and volunteers help out.


Take a look at her campaign video:


Crowley collected $3 million for his primary election campaign. He hadn’t had a primary challenger for the past 14 years.

“This race is about people versus money,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her campaign video. “We’ve got people. They’ve got money.”

Source: Ocasio 2018


Her win over Crowley was perceived as a major upset within the Democratic Party, which has seen a schism between establishment and progressive Democrats — as was demonstrated by Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns in 2016.

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REUTERS/Jim Young

Shortly after her primary election win, The New York Times called her a “Democratic Giant Slayer,” while the New York Post screamed: “Red Alert!”

Source: The New York Times


Trump celebrated Crowley’s loss in the primary, though he appeared to attribute the result to himself. “Perhaps he should have been nicer, more respectful, to his President!” he tweeted.


Crowley conceded defeat in the primaries, even dedicating a guitar performance to his opponent that night. The song? “Born to Run.”


In the run-up to the midterms, Ocasio-Cortez continued to campaign around New York and appeared on multiple talk shows to advocate for her platform.

Source: The New York Times


In August, she was criticized for excluding journalists from two town hall meetings that were otherwise open to the public. She said the meetings were “designed for residents to feel safe discussing sensitive issues in a threatening political time.”

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Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Ocasio-Cortez also continued to criticize Trump as the midterm campaign went on. After the president claimed in September that 3,000 people “did not die” following Hurricane Maria, she said her own grandfather “died in the aftermath of the storm. Uncounted.”

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Ocasio-Cortez in August.
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Mike Segar/Reuters

Read more: ‘My own grandfather died’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams Trump’s tweets on Puerto Rico


On November 6, Ocasio-Cortez won 78% of the vote to represent New York’s 14th district in the midterms, becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Read more: Diversity wins: All of the people who made history in the 2018 midterm election


In November, Ocasio-Cortez protested what she described as disproportionate corporate influence at a three-day orientation for incoming members of Congress hosted by the Harvard Institute of Politics.

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Scott Eisen/Getty Images

The 29-year-old lawmaker made headlines when she told The New York Times that she wouldn’t be able to afford rent in Washington before her congressional salary kicks in. “I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real.” In a December interview with INSIDER, Ocasio-Cortez said she’s subletting a DC apartment with her boyfriend for a few months before finding a permanent place.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Ocasio-Cortez has come under scrutiny for making a handful of misstatements about the economy, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and the potential costs of Medicare for All. She told “60 Minutes” in December that she believes the heightened attention her mistakes receive is unfair. “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” she said. “Whenever I make a mistake. I say, ‘Okay, this was clumsy,’ and then I restate what my point was. But it’s not the same thing as the president lying about immigrants.”

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The millennial congresswoman has developed a reputation for delivering withering clap-backs on Twitter and bringing new transparency to politics with Instagram. In a late December interview with INSIDER, Ocasio-Cortez said she writes all her own tweets and deletes many drafted in anger. “In my house we joke: We call it ’emptying the cart.’ It’s like when you go online shopping and then you’re, like, ‘Oh no, never mind,’ and you leave the website,” she said.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in as a congresswoman on January 3. She’s promising to push an ambitious set of policy priorities, including the Green New Deal — a sweeping set of public investments in renewable energy and jobs.

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