New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is bringing Ana Maria Archila, the activist who confronted former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake during September's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, as her guest to Tuesday's State of the Union address.
Archila, the co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy, had cornered Flake as he stepped into a Senate building elevator alongside fellow protester Maria Gallagher, telling him he was sending a harmful message to sexual assault survivors with his support of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
"I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me," Archila told Flake at the time. "I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women they don’t matter.
"Don’t look away from me," she continued, when Flake bowed his head. "Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies."
During a procedural vote that followed the exchange, wherein members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had to vote to advance Kavanaugh's confirmation, Flake requested a last-minute FBI investigation into Christine Blasey Ford's allegations of sexual assault against the nominee.
In an interview with the Intercept, Archila said she was honored to be Ocasio-Cortez's guest because she "never felt so proud of voting for someone" as she did when she voted in November for the New York congresswoman.
“This idea that we all deserve a country where we can live with dignity, that we have so much wealth that is accumulated in such few hands and she is determined to bring that demand to Congress and to give voice to a demand that I think is very widely shared," Archila said. "I just feel particularly moved that in her first participation in the State of the Union she is inviting me to join and inviting that moment of the elevator, my confrontation with the men who do not understand the life of women and the lives of people who are not in power, that she’s inviting that into the imagination of people again."
Ocasio-Cortez hinted at who would accompany her to the address on Saturday, tweeting out a photo of a pin she got for her unnamed guest, reading, "Well behaved women rarely make history."
It's tradition for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to use their plus-ones to the annual State of the Union to make political statements about issues that have roiled United States politics in the past year. In 2018, nearly a dozen Democratic House representatives brought DACA recipients as their guests; Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III had brought a transgender solider who'd been deployed to Afghanistan to show opposition to President Donald Trump's ban on transgender troops; Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine, a Republican, brought scientist Bill Nye to make a statement about climate change to his conservative colleagues.
This year is no different: In addition to Archila, notable State of the Union guests include Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, a California resident who lost her home to last year's wildfires, Victorina Morales, the undocumented woman who was fired from Trump's Bedminster golf club after a December New York Times exposé, and Albertina Contreras Teletor and her daughter Yakelin Garcia Contreras, a mother-daughter pair who were separated at the border in the spring.
Many congresswomen will also show up to Tuesday's address wearing white, a tradition that's emerged in the Trump era as a gesture to the women's suffrage movement and, more recently, a show of support for survivors of sexual assault. Florida Representative Lois Frankel, the chair of the Democratic Women's Working Group, said the message of this year's dress code is more forward-looking, especially after a record number of women were elected to Congress in November.
“The last couple years we were basically reflecting back to Trump,” Frankel told Roll Call. “This year it’s a much more positive—our for the people agend —positive agenda, emphasizing economic security for women and their families.”