Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) handily won her New York Democratic primary on Tuesday, all but guaranteeing a second term in Congress. The progressive star from the Bronx became a national force in 2018 when she unseated long-serving Congressman Joe Crowley. Winning nearly 73% of counted ballots on Tuesday night, The New York Times declared her the projected winner against several other candidates.
When AOC emerged onto the national stage two years ago, some thought that her election was a fluke. At the age of 29, she was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and she had campaigned on a progressive populist platform incubated during her time as a staffer for the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign. Still, some believed that she only won because Crowley, who had served in the House of Representatives for 20 years, did not take her seriously. Had he actually run a campaign, naysayers argued, he may well have defeated the former bartender.
But Tuesday’s results solidify Ocasio-Cortez’s ascent. Taking to Twitter, the congresswoman declared “Tonight, we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It’s a mandate.” Her closest adversary, a former CNBC reporter named Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, reached out to Wall Street backers in the days before the primary, hoping that a last-minute funding surge would help her best the progressive incumbent. But as of Tuesday night, Caruso-Cabrera received only 19% of votes.
A Test for Mail-In Ballots
Still, AOC’s victory was one of only a handful of election night projections. That is because in New York, Kentucky, and Virginia—the three states with primary elections this Tuesday—more people cast mail-in ballots than ever. In New York, these ballots will not even be opened until June 30. For the several contested primaries yet to be called, we may not know a winner until the early days of July.
The slow reaction time is just a preview of what is likely to come in November. As the risks of coronavirus and fears of tightly-quartered voting locations keep so many at home, authorities expect more mail-in ballots than ever. As a result, we might not know the winners of the general election until days or weeks after voting occurs. Stakes are particularly high, as every member of the House of Representatives, a third of US Senators and the President himself are up for reelection this November.
More Rising Stars from the Left?
In New York’s 16th District, a young insurgent named Jamaal Bowman is running to unseat veteran congressman Eliot Engel. Many have compared Bowman to AOC; both are young, non-white progressives running on a populist platform. While The New York Times reported Tuesday that Bowman received 61% of the vote in his primary, it has yet to declare him the winner because of mail-in ballots that will not be opened until next week.
Kentucky Is A Similar Story
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s senate primary was to determine which Democrat will challenge incumbent Mitch McConnell in November. For months, Amy McGrath, a moderate marine corps veteran, was an establishment favorite to win the nomination. But in recent weeks, Charles Booker, a progressive endorsed by Bernie Sanders, has emerged as a viable challenger. The Louisville upstart gained attention amid national protests for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the similar murder of Breonna Taylor in Booker’s hometown. But the race remained too close to call on Tuesday night. Again, the results hinge on the mail-in ballots.