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Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar To Endorse Bernie Sanders For President

The 30-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described Democratic socialist who shares several policy priorities with the 78-year-old Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Saul Loeb
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AFP/Getty Images
The 30-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described Democratic socialist who shares several policy priorities with the 78-year-old Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is set to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president at a Saturday rally in Queens, N.Y., the campaign confirmed to NPR's Scott Detrow. It will be Sanders' first campaign event since he had a heart attack earlier this month.

Sanders teased the event during Tuesday's Democratic debate, saying there would be a "special guest" attending.

Ocasio-Cortez rose to fame last year after upsetting House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley in the primary. The 30-year-old Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described Democratic socialist who shares several policy priorities with the 78-year-old Sanders, including "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal.

She joins another member of "the squad" — as a quartet of first-term progressive women have come to be known on Capitol Hill — in backing Sanders. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota announced Tuesday evening she is also endorsing the senator from Vermont.

"Bernie is leading a working class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity, and geography," Omar said in a statement. "That is why he is fighting to cancel all student debt. That is why he is fighting to make all school meals universal. That is why he is fighting for a humane immigration policy that treats immigrants as human beings and not criminals. And it's why Bernie is fighting to end our forever wars and truly prioritize human rights in our foreign policy — no matter who violates them. And it's why I believe Bernie Sanders is the best candidate to take on Donald Trump in 2020."

Ocasio-Cortez and Omar — along with Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley — have attracted attention since they arrived in Washington, both for their progressive stances and their historic elections. And they've also become targets of President Trump. This summer, Trump derided them on Twitter, suggesting they were anti-American and should "go back" to the "crime infested places from which they came." All four women of color are American citizens, and all but Omar were born in the U.S.

The congresswomen, who are popular with the party's liberal base, could provide a needed boost for Sanders. He's been passed in the polls by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also has an influential progressive following.

And after he had a heart attack two weeks ago, which resulted in two stents being inserted to address a blocked artery, there are new questions about his viability for office given both his health and age.

At Tuesday's debate, Sanders dismissed questions about his health, saying: "We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 15, 2019 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous photo caption in this story incorrectly called Bernie Sanders a Democrat. He is an independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.