One year ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was working in a bar to help support her family. On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez, 29, became the youngest woman in history to be elected to Congress. With all but 2 percent of the votes tallied in the congressional race for New York’s 14th District, NBC News reports that Ocasio-Cortez earned support from 78 percent of voters.
“This is what is possible when every day people come together in the collective realization that all our actions — no matter how small or how large — are powerful, worthwhile and capable of lasting change,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a speech after her victory. “Words cannot express my gratitude.”
Even though she was highly favored to win, Ocasio-Cortez continued her campaign efforts until the final moments. Just one minute before the polls were closed she tweeted, “I am so thankful for every single person who contributed, amplified, and worked to establish this movement. Never forget the hard work it took to get us here. No matter what happens, this is what it takes.”
Ocasio-Cortez shocked the establishment when she won the Democratic primary in June, unseating Rep. Joe Crowley. Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, represented the Bronx and Queens district for 10 terms and was predicted by many to replace Nancy Pelosi as minority leader. He had not faced a primary challenger since 2004.
She has spent her time since the primary holding town halls in her district and campaigning for fellow like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout.
In the midterm election, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Republican Anthony Pappas, who WNYC characterized as “very unusual.”
Pappas’ most noted talking point was his belief that citizens should be able to sue judges. He told WNYC, “We are living under a judicial dictatorship.” To promote his argument, Pappas often cited his own contentious divorce — in which his wife accused him of punching her in the face, a charge he denies — that has taken 14 years.
Before the election, the data-crunching site FiveThirtyEight predicted that Ocasio-Cortez had a 99.9 percent chance of beating Pappas in the deep-blue district.
The rising political star is a former organizer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and previously worked for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. She formerly served as an education director at the National Hispanic Institute.
She ran an entirely grassroots campaign, with an ultra-liberal platform that included the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, tuition-free college, a federal jobs guarantee, universal Medicare, gun control, an end to private prisons and access to affordable housing.
In addition to becoming the youngest woman elected to the House, she is also the first representative to fully reflect the demographics of the 14th District. “Our district is 70 percent people of color, and we have never had a person of color represent us in American history,” she told NowThis. Roughly 50 percent of the citizens in her district are immigrants.
Earlier on Tuesday, she struck a reflective tone on social media.
“Can’t help but reflect this Election Day: As my family in Puerto Rico watches me run for Congress, they still don’t have the right to vote in federal elections — despite being subject to federal lawmakers,” she shared on Twitter.
Written by Abigail Hess