‘Blue Wave’ Washes Into the Bronx as Ocasio-Cortez, Biaggi Rally Voters

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Shantal Riley

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to reporters at a Get Out the Vote rally in the Bronx on Thursday. The 29-year-old Democrat is the forerunner in the District 14 Congressional race in Queens and the Bronx.

Election 2018 star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made an impassioned plea to Democrats to vote in the midterm elections Tuesday. “We’re here to organize and educate and expand our electorate,” Ocasio-Cortez shouted.

The young politician delivered a fiery speech at a “Get Out the Vote” rally at the Sanz Banquet Halls in the Bronx on Thursday, five days before Election Day.

“We have one of the lowest voter-turnout districts in the country,” said Ocasio Cortez, dressed in a black blazer and wearing her signature, bright-red lipstick. “It’s the compounding of New York’s voter-suppression laws. It’s the compounding impacts of poverty. It’s the compounding impacts of increasingly being squeezed. It’s the compounding impacts of cynicism. But we can turn that ship around.”

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is poised to become the youngest woman in Congress after beating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary in June. She faces Republican Anthony Pappas, 72, a relative unknown, in the heavily Democratic 14th Congressional District of Queens and the Bronx.

She was introduced by Alessandra Biaggi, 32, expected to win a seat in the New York State Senate, representing the very blue 34th district in Westchester County and the Bronx. Biaggi said she was told she was committing “political suicide” when she announced her candidacy.

“But I knew in my heart and also with a little bit of intuition that this was an opportunity in this state and in this district to really have a Democratic majority in the state Senate,” Biaggi said. “We have not had a Democratic majority in the state Senate for over eight years, even though we have more Democrats in the State of New York than Republicans.”

Biaggi pointed to the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC – a group of state Senate Democrats who turned their backs on the Democratic caucus and voted along with Republicans. The group was led by Senator Jeff Klein, who Biaggi soundly defeated in the Democratic primary in September.

“There was this group called the IDC, which we hope will be put to rest by Nov. 6, never to be seen again,” said Biaggi. Hissing was heard in the audience.

Biaggi and Ocasio-Cortez are part of dynamic wave of Democratic women running in the midterm elections, including Detroit’s Rashida Tlaib – about to become one of two Muslim women headed to Congress – and Ayanna Pressley, set to become the first black woman to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District. Both women are running unopposed.

Ilhan Omar, a Somali woman who came to the United States as a refugee, is also expected to be elected to Congress, representing a blue district in Minnesota.

“There’s a theory in quantum physics that the nature of a particle changes depending on if you’re paying attention to it,” Ocasio-Cortez said, speaking into a microphone on Thursday.

“And that’s the way government works. The more people are paying attention, the more people that are invested, the more our government starts to change in fidelity to the needs of working-class people.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she often meets people who say, “This system doesn’t work for me so I don’t vote, instead of this system doesn’t work for me because we don’t vote… What I often say is cynicism is a weapon given to our communities for us to use against ourselves.”

She returned her attention to the working class. “For far too long the scales have been getting more and more tipped away from the ability of working people to make ends meet,” she said.

She spoke about Bronx Toy “R” Us workers who lost their pensions when the store was taken over by a private, equity group that liquidated the company earlier this year. “Stories like that are rippling across the country,” she said.

“We’re here in a generational fight to guarantee health care to all people in this country,” she said, pointing her finger at the floor with each syllable. “We’re fighting for a living wage. We’re fighting so that we can get to 100-percent renewable energy in 10 years because our lives depend on it.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s voice rose with each pledge to fight. The crowd responded with unrelenting applause.

She greeted supporters, some with hugs, following her speech. “She’s really honest and comes from the heart,” said Dan Flores, waiting in a small crowd to say hello to the Democrat. “I’m inspired by that.”

“She has hope, she’s a fighter,” said Linda Blackstock, who said she would vote for Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday. “She’s from the Bronx.”

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