Op-Ed: The new generation—young female politicians to watch


Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez posing for a campaign image. Cortez is a community activist, author and now a representative for New York’s fourteenth congressional district. Photo source: Ocasio 2018

The politicians we know today are becoming threatened by a new wave of young, up-and-coming political candidates with fresh ideas and a hunger for change. A recent sign of this? On the last Tuesday in June, 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez disrupted the 2018 election cycle as she beat top Democrat Congressman Joseph Crowley for a Democratic primary win.

As the first candidate to challenge a high ranking Democratic veteran in a primary election in 14 years, Cortez has emerged as what New York Times describes as a “political rockstar.” The Puerto Rican woman, former waitress and Bronx-native is a symbol of a fresh change in politics for the United States. Her campaign backs Medicare for All and promotes the abolition of ICE.

“This is what happens when you give people a choice. They show up and they reject the status quo,” New York state candidate Cynthia Nixon said in explanation of the victory.  

Cortez’s win reveals the new wave of politicians on the horizon. Cortez is one of the many progressive young politicians challenging the direction of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Ayanna Pressley

House candidate Ayanna Pressley is the first black woman ever elected to Boston’s city council in its 108 year history and is the next progressive challenger to an incumbent member of Congress, Michael Capuano. A friend of Cortez, Pressley defeated Democratic Representative Capuano for Massachusetts seventh district on Sept. 4. Pressley’s stunning defeat against the 10-term Representative proves change is here, and change is now.

Her campaign strives for diverse communities by advocating and allying with immigrants, supporting women and minority-owned business and ensuring access to all school-based mental health services.

Pressley is an example of a strong woman of color who fights for political and social change and does not back down from a challenge.

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud

Muslim African-American rights lawyer Tahirah Amatul-Wadud challenged top-ranking Democrat Representative Richard Neal for the first congressional district of Massachusetts on Sept. 4. Neal defeated her by 40 points, but Wadud is just starting her journey to become the next female powerhouse in politics. Even though the first congressional district of Massachusetts isn’t yet ready for her, the minorities she gives a voice to and the women she is helping have been ready for years. Wadud runs a successful practice in Western Massachusetts devoted to domestic relations and civil rights law. 

Mia Love

Serving on behalf of Utah’s fourth congressional district, Mia Love is the first Republican black female elected to Congress. Love is running to keep her position as representative in November against Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

Love is an advocate of ending the opioid epidemic, which has become an official national crisis with the drug killing over 42,000 people in 2016.

Love is making immigration a priority in her campaign as she believes that “immigrant citizens have long contributed to and enriched our nation, and we should continue to incentivize lawful immigration.”

However, Love is attempting to find a solution to illegal immigrants who are bypassing the immigration system, as it “undermines the rule of law and creates opportunity for unmonitored criminal activities.”  

Erika Harold

Erika Harold is a 38-year-old attorney at an Illinois law firm and a Republican politician. 

When Harold was accepted into Harvard Law School in 2002, she successfully entered the Miss America pageant to win the money for her tuition. 

Her goals are to combat the opioid epidemic as well as ending racism and bullying, as she was targeted for being biracial in high school. In 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Harold to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality due to her outreach work to end bullying. Harold will be running to be Illinois’ next Attorney General in November.  

The traditional Democratic and Republican houses and ideals are changing due to progressive young politicians like these who have a hunger for change and a brighter future for U.S. politics. All of these women represent a movement of bold changes and the courage it takes to challenge the historically white male political structure.

“They’ll tell you you’re too loud, that you need to wait your turn and ask the right people for permission. Do it anyway.” Cortez said.

And we will.