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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Was Tending Bar and Waiting Tables Less than a Year Ago

The 28-year-old surprise winner of the Democratic Primary in NY's 14th District ousted Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House.
Photos: Instagram and Scott Heins/Getty Images)

“The funny thing about beginnings is that you rarely know you’re in them,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram last November, captioning a photo that showed her working behind the bar at a New York City restaurant. “My beginning was losing a parent to cancer, working a hard job in the wake of that loss, and complete uncertainty about the future of my family.”

On Tuesday, June 26, the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez marked another new beginning, one that started when the first-time candidate beat Congressman Joe Crowley in the Democratic Primary for the 14th District in Queens and the Bronx. It was the first time that Crowley had faced a challenger in a primary election in 14 years—and it effectively ended the two-decade political career of a man who some believed might be the next Democratic Speaker of the House.


“The only way you defeat an incumbent is by outworking them,” she said in WNYC’s video called, fittingly, “How to Challenge an Incumbent.” She did.

And when Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t walking miles and miles of sidewalk in those two boroughs, knocking on door after door to introduce herself to potential voters, she was tending bar and waiting tables at Flats Fix, a taco and tequila bar in Union Square. She is shown shaking a cocktail in an image still on the bar's website today. (“Loved it! And Alexandra [sic] is the best!” one reviewer wrote on Facebook, two years to the day before her historic victory.)

She is also a tireless activist: according to the Los Angeles Times, she was an organizer for Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign, set up a GoFundMe to raise money for supplies to take to the activists at Standing Rock in South Dakota—and drove them there herself—and worked with the Democratic Socialists of America when they lobbied Crowley last spring. She completed the paperwork to become a 14th District candidate last May. Fast forward a year, and she will most likely become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

"Our campaign was focused on just a laser focused message of economic, social and racial dignity for working class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx. We were very clear about our message, very clear about our priorities," Ocasio-Cortez said during an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday morning.

Crowley has pledged to support Ocasio-Cortez from here on. "I want to congratulate Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on her victory tonight," Crowley said in a statement. "I look forward to supporting her and all Democrats this November. The Trump administration is a threat to everything we stand for here in Queens and the Bronx, and if we don't win back the House this November, we will lose the nation we love."

For Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, this is clearly another another new beginning.