News & Politics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Draws Another Primary Challenger – This Time It’s Serious

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Everybody’s favorite socialist bartender cum congressperson has had a rough go of it over the past few months. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, when not committing verbal gaffe after verbal gaffe, has seen her own party’s apparatus line up against her at the state and national level. Now, she’s drawn a second challenger in the Democratic primary for the 14th District of New York, this time a heavyweight – CNBC correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera on assignment for CNBC in Havana, Cuba (via Wikipedia)

A self-described social liberal and fiscal conservative, Caruso-Cabrera will bring much-needed intellectual heft to the democratic primary debates. She has an Emmy award, a (real) economics degree from Wellesley, and a book about fiscal conservatism on her resume. The description on Amazon for her 2010 book, You Know I’m Right: More Prosperity, Less Government, reads:

As the popular anchor of CNBC’s daily news show Power Lunch, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera puts a new spin on conservatism. Now, in You Know I’m Right, Caruso-Cabrera presents a modern and smart approach to correcting the economic woes of the nation. Denouncing the hypocrites, she calls out the radicals on both sides of the spectrum who have frustrated voters and left fiscally conservative but socially liberal Americans feeling like a people without a party.

Caruso-Cabrera maintains that by focusing on socially invasive policies, our country has lost its course. The answer is less government, not more; less spending, not more; and getting the government to stay out of our pocketbooks and out of our private lives. You Know I’m Right addresses the problems created by government overreach and speaks to the minds and hearts of nostalgic Republicans-those who believe in the strategy and approach used by Ronald Reagan. But it will also appeal to Clinton-era Democrats frustrated by the current level of exorbitant spending and excessive interference in the economy. Citing faults with both political parties, Caruso-Cabrera puts a magnifying glass on government structure, healthcare, and education, underscoring how we have gone wrong and, more important, where we need to go for a secure and prosperous future.

AOC had already drawn a primary challenger, a Bangladeshi activist by the name of Badrun Khan. Khan doesn’t seem to have much of a profile or name recognition, a problem that Caruso-Cabrera won’t face. It’s notable that AOC also drew a Republican challenger, Scherie Murray, a first-generation Jamaican immigrant and business owner.

One can certainly see why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has drawn so much resistance in her own district. The freshman firebrand member of The Squad has found herself on the outs with Nancy Pelosi, as well as voters in her own district after the loss of the Amazon headquarters and campus deal. Her chief of staff resigned under the cloud of scandal — alleged misuse of a LOT of campaign money. She’s always been much more popular outside her district than in. According to Open Secrets, she’s raised a staggering $5.3 million for her 2020 reelection campaign. Of that, 0.89% came from her own district. Over 82% of her fundraising comes from outside the State of New York. This after she won election over a ten-term incumbent in 2018 with 60+% of her over $2 million in campaign contributions coming from out of state — an upset victory she pulled off by a mere 4,000 votes in a low turnout primary.

A political action committee called Stop the AOC has formed in the 14th District. According to the New York Post,

She’s a social media superstar — but a survey of Democrats in her Bronx-Queens 14th District has found that Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is vulnerable to a re-election challenge.

The survey, commissioned by the decidedly anti-Ocasio-Cortez “Stop The AOC” political action committee, found that 47% of Democrats in the 14th Congressional District view her favorably and 29% unfavorably, with 24% unsure.

Asked if they supported Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts to “ruin the Amazon deal that would have created 25,000 jobs in the neighborhood,”  37% said yes, 35% said no with 28% unsure.

Anger directed at Ocasio-Cortez over Amazon’s decision to back out of a deal for a headquarters and campus in Long Island City has created an opening for a challenger to pound her as anti-jobs and anti-business, said Dan Backer, founder of Stop The AOC.

“The argument against AOC is Amazon, Amazon and also Amazon,” Backer said.

The survey also asked voters if AOC spends more time on social media than helping voters in her district. Only 40% of voters said that she focuses more on the needs of her voters. Notably, she garnered a name recognition rate of only about two-thirds — not great for an incumbent with a large social media presence.

As to her new challenger, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. She’s media savvy, she’s much more accomplished and experienced, and she seems to actually understand economics. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 14th District by 29 percentage points, so social issues won’t decide this race. Hispanics make up 49% of the electorate.

This looks like a battle royale in the primary, with two native Spanish speakers going toe to toe over economic issues important to the voters. Can the socialist superstar, prominent on the national stage, fight off a primary challenge among the voters in her own district?