Michael Scherer and David Weigel, Washington Post, June 27, 2018
The newest star of the Democratic Party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, launched her New York congressional campaign by declaring “women like me aren’t supposed to run for office” — a jarring embrace of her distinction as a 28-year-old Latina less than a year removed from a job tending bar.
Her campaign slogan: “It’s time for one of us.”
That appeal to the tribal identities of class, age, gender and ethnicity turned out to be a good gamble, steering her to the nomination in a year when Democratic voters are increasingly embracing diversity as a way to realize the change they seek in the country.
Given an option, Democratic voters have been picking women, racial minorities, and gay men and lesbians in races around the country at historic rates, often at the expense of the white male candidates who in past years typified the party’s offerings. Ocasio-Cortez’s opponent, veteran Rep. Joseph Crowley, a
white man representing a majority-minority district, fit that bill.
The tribal trend has implications for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, where a historic number of nonwhite and female candidates are considering launching campaigns, including Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.). They will likely face off against a cadre of more traditional white male candidates, including possible bids by former vice president Joe Biden and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe.
Many of the key Democratic House primaries this year have been competitions over biography, with a premium given to those who break new ground or remove old barriers. House nominees in key races to unseat Republicans include a black former NFL player turned attorney, a female retired fighter pilot and a lesbian Air Force intelligence officer, all of whom defeated more conventional opponents.
This proved the case again in New York on Tuesday, when Ocasio-Cortez toppled Crowley, one of the most powerful Democrats in the nation and one widely seen as heir apparent to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
On the same night, upstate in the Catskill Mountains, Antonio Delgado, an Oxford- and Harvard-educated African American lawyer, emerged from a crowded field of six white Democratic candidates, some of them more liberal, for the chance to take on Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) in one of the most competitive House elections this cycle.
In Maryland, Democrats nominated Ben Jealous, the African American former head of the NAACP, making him the second black gubernatorial nomination this year, following former Georgia statehouse leader Stacey Abrams’s win last month. There have been only two African Americans elected governor in the 50 states in recent history — and at least two more black Democratic candidates, in Florida and Wisconsin, have a chance to win nominations this fall.
Ocasio-Cortez spent much of the campaign, including much of the only one-on-one debate, focusing on Crowley’s decision to take money from corporate donors and raise his kids in Virginia while he worked at the U.S. Capitol. She argued throughout the campaign that Crowley “doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air.”
Two years after Crowley was elected to the state legislature in the late ’80s, Queens County, where he was born, was about 58 percent white, according to the 1990 Census. Today, it is 48 percent white, according to census figures. The district he represents, which includes parts of the Bronx, is 18 percent white.