Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: How to Run for Office When You Don’t Think You Fit the Profile

January 14 - Sarah Ashlock


During a casual conversation with a new friend, his perspective on something struck me. He said that money is great (duh) but it can’t turn you into a decent human being. Attaining wealth highlights your personality, he explains, so if you’re a selfish individual, more funds in your bank account will emphasize that selfishness. There are also plenty of good-hearted people whose good-heartedness becomes center stage with a little cash behind it. The moral of the story? Don’t look at someone’s net worth and assume one thing or another. Get to know them. What they say and do speaks volumes more than how many zeroes are in their paycheck.


Let’s talk numbers. As of August 2018, 219 women have won their primary in an election, whether it’s the Senate or House. A historic number of women were elected to Congress in November 2018! According to a study by FiveThirtyEight, ABC News and Ballotpedia, a big reason why these political gals have won their seats is due to their experience in government, with 56 percent having previous experience as elected officials.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives

One such woman you’ve certainly heard the buzz about is our Woman to Watch today, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The 29-year-old is the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress and will represent New York’s 14th district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. The first representative of the district was a white dude, followed by another white dude and then—you guessed it—another white dude, and so on and so on. It took years for a woman to represent the district, and now, Alexandria is the first woman of color to represent the primarily Hispanic area.

But that’s the past. Alexandria’s about the future. People were struck by her candor, her boldness. She wasn’t afraid to say what she thought, even when many believed the statements to be radical. Politics is often careful. It’s not commonplace to hear differing opinions, but Alexandria isn’t afraid.

She was born in the Bronx, but her family’s roots are in Puerto Rico. She worked on immigration issues for Senator Ted Kennedy and has a robust knowledge of her area as a community organizer. Rallying for issues you believe in doesn’t pay much (or anything at all), but when her father later died from cancer, Alexandria began working several jobs as a server to help her family.

Alexandria’s relatable financial situation has been at the forefront of her campaign and largely appeals to voters like her. She has less than $7,000 in the bank and, like so many fellow millennials, is in five-digit student loan debt for her degree in economics and international relations. Alexandria faces a difficulty many of us face: finding an affordable place to rent in DC, where the average price is nearly $3,000 a month.

When Alexandria was elected, though, she dethroned a representative with a two-decade-long career in politics (and to think her last job was slingin’ drinks at a bar!) She believes part of what helped her win was that she focused on the issues, ones that she herself has experienced. Her campaign slogan famously rang in the ears of women all around the country: “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”

What’s stunned the nation is Alexandria’s anti-establishment mentality. It’s no secret how polarized our politics are, but Alexandria reminds us we have to think about and research the issues well, and we have to be brave enough to fight for those issues that touch our hearts the most. What’s important isn’t what a news anchor or a celebrity tells us is important. What’s important is what hits home, what aligns with our values and what we want for future generations.


We’ve got to finish the day with a quote by the woman herself, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

"I see people like me, who thought someone like me couldn't be in politics, now are saying, 'Oh, wait, I don't need to take money from corporations to run. Maybe I'll run, too.'"

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