Rising liberal Democrat star on West Coast fundraising swing
LOS ANGELES (AP) — She visited Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row neighborhood, where the homeless crowd the streets. She met with liberal activists eager to see universal health care and expanded rent-control laws. And she was cheered by hundreds of supporters at a downtown fundraiser, where she warned of those who scheme to turn liberal-minded Americans against each other.
Virtually unknown just months ago, New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Los Angeles as a rising political star, about a month after her improbable upset of 10-term U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York City Democratic primary.
On Thursday, she intentionally avoided politicians and Hollywood celebrities, instead choosing to share the stage at the low-dollar fundraiser with activists pushing for broader rent-control laws in California and a public-backed banking system in the city.
In her speech, she warned of a broken economy in which luxury apartments stand vacant while homeless crowd the streets, and talked of a Democratic Party in which the working class and marginalized are ascendant.
Bursts of applause followed her calls for universal health care and a cost-free education through college. She swiped repeatedly, if indirectly, at President Donald Trump.
“It is not us who are crazy, not with that man in the White House,” the former Bernie Sanders organizer said to cheers.
Ocasio-Cortez was lauded by those who paid $27, or $10 for students, to see the candidate seen as the new face of the emerging democratic socialist movement.
“She really inspires me, because she’s so young and she’s getting so far,” said Melainey Jane Foerster, 16, a high-school student from suburban Santa Clarita.
Salesman Jon Pelzer, 65, said he’s “impressed by and energized by what she was able to do in New York.”
“We share all the same values,” added Pelzer, a Democrat who ran on a similar platform in California’s 30th Congressional District but didn’t advance to November.
The surprise victory by the political novice in a district that includes parts of the Bronx and Queens came after a low-budget campaign that she built around liberal and social causes, not the traditional Democratic Party machine. Crowley had been expected to win easily.
Her platform includes expanding the Medicare program to people of all ages and abolishing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Her trip to California comes at a time when state and national Democrats have been contending with friction between their establishment and liberal wings. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is being challenged in November by a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who has positioned himself as a liberal alternative to the long-serving centrist.
She warned of the influence of “coastal elites” in politics, and she recalled that her candidacy was largely dismissed. Ocasio-Cortez said she didn’t receive an endorsement from any incumbent “but we won anyway.”
She urged the crowd to “engage in the fights that you know that are right.”