In 2018, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accomplished the unthinkable: she issued a Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, a high-ranking Democrat, in her district in parts of Queens and the Bronx and defeated him decisively. And according to a report by Axios, the 29-year-old congresswoman may have another primary challenge in mind: taking on either Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in 2022 or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (who is running for president) in 2024.
Axios’ report is based on interviews with “top Democrats.” Ocasio-Cortez has become a prominent figure in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as well as the leading millennial voice for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialist” movement in the United States. The fact that Ocasio-Cortez is 29 is important: at 77, the Vermont senator and 2020 presidential candidate has successfully found someone who is 48 years younger to help carry forward many of the policies he has championed — from Medicare-for-all to a national minimum wage of $15 per hour. Environmentalists have applauded her Green New Deal and the fact that she is so proactive when it comes to battling the effects of climate change.
But the possibility of Ocasio-Cortez taking on Schumer or Gillibrand raises the question: How would she fare in a statewide race? The Democratic representative handily defeated Crowley in 2018, which was the most difficult part. The Republican she faced in the general election, economics professor Anthony Pappas, ran a very flawed campaign — and she received 78 percent of the vote, while Pappas received only 13 percent.
So far, Ocasio-Cortez has only run for office in her district, where she’s quite popular. The question now is: How would she fare in a statewide race against Schumer or Gillibrand that requires competing not only in Queens and the Bronx, but also, everywhere from Buffalo to Syracuse to Albany? And if she did manage to defeat Schumer or Gillibrand in a Democratic primary, how would she fare against a Republican statewide in the general election?
Also, would Democratic voters in New York State want to take a chance on Ocasio-Cortez in 2024 in light of how well Gillibrand performed in the 2018 midterms? Gillibrand was reelected by a landslide last year, defeating Republican nominee Chele Farley statewide by 34%.
But Corbin Trend, Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, told Axios, “Having worked on her campaign, I don’t think we’re going to be moving to a different role any time soon.”