In a stunning primary upset, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a young socialist activist, woman of color and political newcomer — has unseated leading House Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s deep-blue 14th Congressional District.
Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a former organizer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and a one-time staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, ran on an unalloyed leftist progressive platform, calling for a “political revolution” that includes Medicare and higher education for all, gun control measures, an end to private prisons and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
The district Ocasio-Cortez hopes to represent is in the Bronx and Queens; roughly 50 percent of the people there are immigrants — and she says they’ve been yearning for a representative who speaks to them, and speaks for their needs.
“We’re having an affordability crisis in New York City,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition on Wednesday. “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.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she wants to abolish ICE because the agency represents the militarization of immigration enforcement.
“What we’re basically saying is that the structure of ICE — in a similar manner as the structure of the Patriot Act — is kind of built on a scaffolding of questionable civil liberties infringement and abuse,” she said. “So what we’re really talking about is re-imagining immigration to be humane, and in a way that is transparent and accountable.”
Ocasio-Cortez defeated Crowley, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, whom many saw as a possible successor to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should Democrats win a majority in November.
As for whether she feels Pelosi should continue to lead Democrats in the House, Ocasio-Cortez said she’s open to the idea of new leadership in Congress. She added: “I think it’d be inappropriate to commit to any one individual before we’ve even won back the House in November. Let’s make sure we do that, and then we can have that conversation.”