Closing The Gap

29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is poised to become the youngest woman in Congress

Progressive challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrartes with supporters at a victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Representative Joseph Crowly on June 26, 2018 in New York City. Ocasio-Cortez upset Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens.
Scott Heins/Getty Images

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx on Oct. 13, 1989, and she's already on track to make history.

In June, Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary for New York's 14th Congressional District, unseating leading House Democrat Joe Crowley. Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, has 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.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is highly favored to beat Republican Anthony Pappas in her deep-blue district. According to the data website FiveThirtyEight, she has a 99.9 percent chance of winning, and would become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (That title is currently held by Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York's 21st District, who was first elected to Congress in 2014 at age 30.)

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The rising political star is a former organizer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and previously worked for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. She also was an education director at the National Hispanic Institute. Her father was a small business owner from the South Bronx, and her mother is a housekeeper from Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

As a child, Ocasio-Cortez commuted 40 minutes each way to attend Yorktown High School, because of the low quality of the schools in her Bronx ZIP code. She went on to study economics and international relations at Boston University.

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 reform, an end to private prisons and access to affordable housing.

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"We're having an affordability crisis in New York City," Ocasio-Cortez told NPR. "We have a security crisis with our current immigration system, and I think I was able to allow our community to really feel seen and heard, and visited and advocated for."

Should she win the general election, she would also become 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.

When Ocasio-Cortez won the primary, she was stunned. “I cannot put this into words,” she told NY1. But she found them quickly.

“This is not an end, this is the beginning. This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it's not OK to put donors before your community,” she told her supporters in June. "You have given this country hope, you have given this country proof that when you knock on your neighbor's door, when you come to them with love, when you let them know that no matter your stance, you are there for them — that we can make change.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Ocasio-Cortez's year of birth. It was 1989.

This is an updated version of a post that originally published on June 27, 2018.

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