AOC’s competition: Meet the candidates running against Ocasio-Cortez

In her short time in office, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has become a household name as well as one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

The 30-year-old New York lawmaker has quickly become an icon among progressive Democrats for her stances of immigrant and women’s rights, her Green New Deal plan and her support of plans like “Medicare-for-all.” On the right, however, she has been panned as a radical socialist advancing unrealistic government takeovers.

Ocasio-Cortez’s polarizing persona has now earned her a long list of challengers – both Republicans and fellow Democrats – hoping to take her seat in November’s election. Here are the candidates running against Cortez for the seat representing New York’s 14th Congressional District.

Democrats

Fernando Cabrera: The New York City councilman joined the race for Ocasio Cortez’s seat last October – arguing that the district needs a moderate Democrat instead of “a no show in the district” who “hasn’t brought about anything except division within the party.” Cabrera opposes Ocasio Cortez’s Green New Deal and “Medicare-for-all,” and says he was inspired after hearing Ocasio-Cortez argue against Amazon’s planned headquarters in Queens.

The councilman himself, however, is not without controversy, as a video surfaced a few years ago of him praising the policies of the Ugandan government – which include harsh penalties for homosexuals – and he has appeared on a radio show of the conservative Family Research Council. Cabrera countered the criticism by saying that while on the city council he has voted for every piece of legislation pushed by the LGBT caucus.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera: The former CNBC correspondent is the most recent entry in the race.

Caruso-Cabrera, who is a descendant of Cuban immigrants, has been a fierce critic of socialism and an advocate for free markets during her career. She left CNBC in 2018 to join the board of directors at Beneficient, a financial services company, and in the past has praised former President Ronald Reagan’s economic policy and his calls for limited government.

James Dillon: A longtime political activist from Queens who previously ran for Congress– as a Republican – in 1998. He is opposed to Ocasio Cortez’s idea of democratic socialism.

Badrun Khan: Billing herself as an activist who has “spent her entire life fighting for justice, equality and fairness in her community,” Khan announced her campaign last September and has positioned herself as a more moderate alternative to Ocasio-Cortez. She supports expanding Social Security and Medicare benefits and ensuring health care “is made available for all,” but stops short of throwing her support behind “Medicare-for-all.”

Jose Velazquez: Velazquez is a Bronx resident who has railed against Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism of the Democratic Party. His campaign has focused on “pragmatic solutions to progressive ideas.”

Republicans:

Jineea Butler: This is Butler’s second time running for Congress after previously challenging Rep. Adriano Espaillat in a race for New York’s 13th District. Butler, a former Division I basketball player at Long Island University in Brooklyn, has focused her career before politics on social work and her platform on issues like school choice, reintegration into society for ex-offenders and growing arts and business opportunities in her district.

Israel Ortega Cruz: The Puerto Rican-born Republican describes himself as “a defender of the homeless in New York City” and has been critical of what he says are Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist policies.

John Cummings: Cummings has won the support of the Bronx Republican Party, which said he would present an alternative to the democratic socialist incumbent. He describes himself as a “small-government guy” who will promote choice on issues including education, a free-market economy and infrastructure improvements, according to the New York Post.

Miguel Hernandez: A construction contractor who lives in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Hernandez has already taken flack for not living in the district he would represent and faces an uphill battle as a Republican in the heavily Democratic district.

Scherie Murray: Murray is a 38-year-old businesswoman from Queens who is running her second campaign. In 2015 she was a Republican special election candidate for District 29 of the New York State Assembly, but ended up losing. Some Republicans have been critical of her, as she doesn’t espouse traditional conservative beliefs and even congratulated Ocasio-Cortez when she won her primary race in 2018 against incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley.

Ruth Papazian: Papazian is a medical journalist and child of Egyptian immigrants who jumped into the race against Ocasio-Cortez last March after blaming the freshman congresswoman for scuttling the deal that would have had Amazon set up headquarters in Queens. She has also slammed Ocasio-Cortez for pushing an agenda she says is too far to the left and has railed against the Green New Deal.

Rey Solano: Solano is campaigning on an agenda that includes a plan to provided private health insurance to all, immigration reform and school choice.

Antoine Tucker: Tucker wants to stop what he calls Ocasio-Cortez’s “globalist agenda” by aligning himself with President Trump’s policies.

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