AOC faces off against New York primary challenger backed by Wall Street investors in effort to reclaim House seat

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC television journalist, is vying for the congresswoman's seat today 

Danielle Zoellner
Tuesday 23 June 2020 18:31
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AOC slams $2 trillion coronavirus bailout for corporations

Two years ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned her grassroots campaign into a movement within her New York district, defeating 10-term incumbent Joe Cowley, who was the fourth-leading Democrat within the House.

Her win was covered nationwide, partly because she became the youngest woman to ever serve Congress at the age of 29.

But her momentum didn’t end there.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez used her progressive viewpoint and age to connect with people through Instagram Live and Twitter, among other social platforms, nationwide. In her first term, she joined committees challenging big corporations all while pushing for the Green New Deal, which aimed to address climate change and economic inequality.

Ultimately her democratic socialist platform earned her success, but also challenges, both inside and outside her party while garnering a large public following.

Now she will be facing off against Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC television journalist, today in New York’s primary election.

Ms Caurso-Cabrera, a registered Republican until 2015, has called the democratic socialist a “polarising, divisive force” in her bid to unseat the incumbent.

As a member of the House Democrat’s “squad” -- which includes Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan -- Ms Ocasio-Cortez caused waves within her party for her more progressive and outspoken views, leading to public spats between herself and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But Ms Pelosi has since endorsed the re-election of Ms Ocasio-Cortez over other challengers like Ms Caurso-Cabrera.

In an effort to curb the national fame surrounding Ms Ocasio-Cortez, the former CNBC journalist and fiscal conservative has accused the politician of being “MIA” in New York’s 14th congressional district, which covers areas of Queens and the Bronx.

The congresswoman “wants to be a national star,” Ms Cauros-Cabera said in an interview with CNN. “I want to be a congresswoman for the people of the Bronx and Queens.”

When responding to these claims, Ms Ocasio-Cortez said: “Really, it just makes the person sound tone deaf because if you think I’m not around, the person who’s not around is you, because you don’t see us and we’re everywhere.”

Points raised against Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s re-election include the congresswoman hindering plans for Amazon to build its second headquarters.

Ms Cauros-Cabrera also found support for her campaign from deep-pocket backers like Wall Street bankers and investors, all of whom understand the district will likely stay blue in the general election but want someone more moderate compared to the democratic socialist.

Donors including Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, Silver Lake Partners’ Glenn Hutchins, Firebird Capital’s James Passin, and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs announced their support for Ms Caruso-Cabrera by donating to her campaign.

In total, the challenger, 53, has raised more than $2m in funding from a variety of bankers, lawyers, investors, and executives as she works to unseat Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 30.

“I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-same sex marriage, I’m very pro-immigrant, I am centrist for sure,” Ms Caruso-Cabrera said during a recent interview when describing her platform.

The efforts made by the centralist’s campaign have been notable, but the public support she’s gained in recent weeks will unlikely be enough to unseat Ms Ocasio-Cortez, whose grassroots movement has remained strong due to her name recognition and backing of prominent progressive politicians like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Thus far, Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign has raised an astounding $10.5m for her re-election efforts.

To further help her lead, the New York Times recently endorsed the politician, stating “she helped build a national progressive movement, becoming a leading voice on climate change, income inequality and racist policing.”

Her platform, though arguably not always focused on the local level, has helped Ms Ocasio-Cortez hold her lead among voters within the New York’s 14th congressional district – a lead she won’t likely lose as voters head to the polls.

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