New York liberal congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated her Republican challenger, Anthony Pappas, on Tuesday, becoming the youngest female elected to Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old Democratic socialist, has promised to try and push the Democratic Party further to the left, by supporting Medicare for all, free college tuition and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Ocasio-Cortez won her party’s nomination in an upset primary against longtime incumbent Joe Crowley over the summer.
The liberal darling enjoyed an endorsement from former President Barack Obama last month, after he left her off of his initial round of 81 endorsements this summer, prompting speculation over why the ex-president had seemingly snubbed the young Democrat whose big-government views align with those of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Ocasio-Cortez, despite leading the polls in her House contest, seemed to make a series of gaffes throughout her campaign — stumbling when asked whether she considered House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the leader of the House Democrats; claiming that unemployment was low “because everyone has two jobs,” and stumbling over her strategy over how to fund Medicare for all.
In an interview this week, when asked about that funding, she suggested people would “just pay for it.”
“People often say, like, how are you going to pay for it and I find the question so puzzling because ‘How do you pay for something that’s more affordable? How do you pay for cheaper rent?’ You just pay for it,” she said in an interview with Jorge Ramos. “We’re paying more now.”
According to some recent studies, the program, first introduced by Sanders over the summer, would increase government health spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years.
The spending hikes would allow the government to replace what employers and consumers currently pay for health care — delivering significant savings on administrative and drug costs, but increasing demand for care that would drive up spending, according to a study released by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University over the summer. The study estimated that doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes would not fully cover the additional costs for the program.
But under the plan, all Americans would gain access to government insurance with no co-pays or deductibles.
The insurance industry would be relegated to a minor role in the system. Supporters argue that other developed countries already have implemented systems like this, and America’s private insurance-centered model continues to leave some families with crushing costs.
“In a modern, moral and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez told Ramos. “We should treat healthcare, housing, and education as rights.”
She added: “I believe we should guarantee a basic level of human dignity in America.”
Prior to learning of her victory, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, thanking her supporters.
“I am so thankful for every single person who contributed, amplified, and worked to establish this movement,” she tweeted. “Never forget the hard work it took to get us here. No matter what happens, this is what it takes.”
Currently, Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York is the youngest woman in Congress. She was elected in 2015 at the age of 30. Democrat Abby Finkenauer, 29, beat Iowa GOP Rep. Rod Blum Tuesday night and is among youngest women ever elected to the U.S. House.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.