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Very Real

Who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The Woman Who Ousted 10-Term Rep. Joe Crowley And Wants To Abolish ICE?

How did this 28-year-old Latina socialist who volunteered for Bernie Sanders and ran a campaign with no corporate money beat powerful Democrat?

By Aditi Kini

Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ousted 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district Tuesday in an astonishing primary upset.

Ocasio-Cortez, who runs on clear-cut progressive issues such as “Medicare For All” and “Housing As A Human Right,” received little coverage in her race — despite the remarkable nature of her campaign against an established Democrat — but is now a trending Twitter hashtag.

So what do you need to know about Ocasio-Cortez? How did she unseat an incumbent so entrenched his last primary challenge came 14 years ago?

Here are five fast facts about the woman who upset establishment politics just years out of college.

1. She’s incredibly accomplished

Making history at age 28? Organizing hundreds of volunteers with no corporate money to launch the district's first primary in “almost a generation?” Ocasio-Cortez has achieved a lot of firsts: she’s the first NY-14 candidate to run without any lobbyist money, and the first woman of color ever to run in a district that is 70% people of color.

2. Just seven months ago, she was a bartender

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has campaigned on creating "an America that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few,” and talks about being born to two-working class parents where “her mother cleaned homes and everyone pitched in on the family business.” She attended public school, and then studied economics and international relations at Boston University.

In the midst of the 2008 recession, Ocasio-Cortez’s family met with tragedy: her father died from cancer at age 48. Losing her family’s primary source of income, Ocasio-Cortez worked two jobs and long shifts at restaurants to keep her family afloat.

3. Her platform is unapologetic

“This is the start of a movement,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez. Her platform includes Medicare for all, a universal jobs guarantee, full funding for public schools and universities, a commitment to affordable housing, criminal justice reform and immigration reform, including the protection of DREAMers. In short, a progressive’s dream.

What drew her to Democratic Socialists of America? Action, she says in an interview with Vogue. “It wasn’t just like I read a book one day and said, ‘Oh, okay, I’m a Democratic Socialist now.’ I’m an organizer, I’m an educator, I’m an activist,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who says socialism really means “democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It’s about direct representation.”

4. She campaigned for Bernie Sanders

Ocasio-Cortez was an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ grassroots run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. “She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory,” Sanders said in a statement. “She demonstrated once again what progressive politics can do.”

Ocasio-Cortez isn't the only progressive candidate to score a victory over the Democratic establishment. Sanders also endorsed Ben Jealous in the Democratic primary for Maryland governor — and the former NAACP president won Tuesday. He’ll face the incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

5. She wants to abolish ICE

Ocasio-Cortez visited Tornillo, Texas just last week to protest child detention camps. “I confronted the border offices myself. Using their names, I told them exactly what they are responsible for. One of them made eye contact with me. I spoke directly to him. I saw his sense of guilt. We can dismantle this,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez with the hashtag #AbolishICE — a proposal even Bernie Sanders hasn't endorsed.

But that’s not a “fringe position,” Ocasio-Cortez told Vogue. Crowley called ICE “fascist,” but stopped short of saing it should be abolished. Ocasio-Cortez blasted that position as “morally incomprehensible.”

“The moment you have identified something as fascist ... it carries a moral responsibility to abolish it.”

She's also countered claims that she ran a negative campaign. 

“We’re somehow not allowed or not supposed to talk about the misguided actions of people who are in power. Our democracy is designed for that to happen. Our democracy is designed to speak truth to power,” said the woman who didn’t give up on her dreams for the Bronx and Queens.

[Photo 1: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates on June 26, 2018 in New York City. By Scott Heins/Getty Images.

Photo 2: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is embraced at the Tornillo-Guadalupe port of entry gate on June 24, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas By Joe Raedle/Getty Images]