The vote to determine control of the House featured significant milestones. The candidates included 237 women, more than ever before. Among the winners were the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and several who broke racial or other barriers.
At 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez had previously stated that she is still paying off her student loans and until recently had no health insurance. She shocked many in New York politics, including herself, when she came out of nowhere to defeat 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic congressional primary last spring.
The victory made her the national face of young, discontented Democrats — often women and minorities — trying to shove their party to the left. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx but raised in suburban Westchester County. Her father died while she was a student at Boston University in 2008. She got her start in politics as an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders. She calls herself a “Democratic socialist” and supports a national $15 minimum wage and universal health care coverage.
She takes the record for the youngest woman elected to Congress from Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican representing upstate New York who was elected at age 30. American voters have elected many men in their 20s to Congress. The 29-year-old describes herself as an educator, organiser and working-class New Yorker who has worked with mothers, waited tables and led classrooms.
Cortez was born to a mother from Puerto Rico and a father from South Bronz and was reportedly raised in a place where one's zip code determined their destiny. She has promised to represent working families and work towards reducing rent rates, increasing incomes and ensuring health care that will be accessible to more people.