Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly minted progressive star from New York, hit the campaign trail in deep-red Kansas with Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, to boost a pair of progressive House candidates Friday, hoping to pull off the next political upset.
“They said what we did in the Bronx no one would care about here in Kansas,” Ocasio-Cortez said Friday in Wichita. “They told me I would not be welcome. But you have proven them wrong.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s trip marked the first time she had stepped out on the campaign trail to lend her support to other progressive candidates, a month after her stunning primary win in New York’s 14th Congressional District.
“Wherever there are working people, there is hope for the progressive movement,” she said, ahead of Kansas’ August 7 primary. “You are very lucky to have someone brave enough to run in this district too, because that is what it takes – change takes courage.”
The rally in Wichita, for House candidate James Thompson, had to be moved to a larger venue due to the number of people who had RSVP’d for the event. Many who came out said much of the draw was the duo of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez.
“I feel like she can convince a lot of people that we need to be more progressive,” Hald Davis of Wichita said about Ocasio-Cortez, describing her as a “very young star.”
Toni Loeffler of Wichita said she thinks that progressives across the country are going to draw inspiration from what Ocasio-Cortez was able to do in New York.
“I think people are just excited to see her win at this time and she was able to beat down someone who — I mean he had been in Congress for how long?” Loeffler said of Rep. Joe Crowley, who has been a member of Congress since 1999. “And to kind of have that momentum going, for her, I think people are ready to rally behind her.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders were scheduled for another rally later Friday for candidate Brent Welder in Kansas City, looking to unseat Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder.
Ocasio-Cortez has quickly become a desired surrogate for similar insurgent candidates across the country. Next weekend she is slated to campaign in Michigan with long-shot gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. Meanwhile, some on her campaign team are helping Kerri Evelyn Harris, the challenger to Democratic Sen. Tom Carper in the Delaware primary.
Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to use her newly found star power to support some challengers vying to unseat sitting Democratic lawmakers has ruffled some feathers in Washington.
“We as Democrats better figure out who the real enemy is. And it’s not each other,” Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri told The Hill newspaper of Ocasio-Cortez’s ongoing spat with Crowley over Twitter. “I think it’s a lack of maturity on her part, and a lack of political acumen, for her to be that petty.”
Clay is being challenged by Cori Bush, a candidate who Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed.
CNN’s Bill Kirkos and Terence Burlij contributed to this report.