Sanders also picked up the support of two other House Democratic freshmen. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar endorsed him on Tuesday, while CNN reported that Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib would be backing the Vermont independent’s campaign.
Ocasio-Cortez, 30, who along with Sanders, Omar, Tlaib and other liberals has become a regular feature in Republican attack ads that warn of Democratic victories in 2020 leading to socialism, will attend a Sanders rally in New York City on Saturday. Sanders, 78, teased the event from the stage of the Democratic presidential debate.
The endorsements could boost Sanders’ campaign as he returns to the trail after suffering a heart attack. Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, while Omar, 38, and Tlaib, 43, were the first Muslim women to reach that milestone. All three have worked to pull the Democratic Caucus further to the left on issues such as climate change and health care.
“We’re super excited about Saturday,” Ocasio-Cortez campaign spokesman Corbin Trent said late Tuesday. He declined to comment on whether she would be backing Sanders at the rally.
In her endorsement, Omar cited her wok with Sanders on legislation to forgive student debt and provide school lunches year-round to needy children.
“Bernie is leading a working class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity and geography,” she said. “He is fighting for a humane immigration policy that treats immigrants as human beings and not criminals.”
The endorsements come as national polls have shown Sanders, who battled Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination, sliding in the polls as another icon of the party’s left, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has seen her support grow steadily. Warren faced some of the most pointed questions at Tuesday’s debate in Ohio, a sign that other Democratic candidates might see her as the candidate to beat.
Sanders teased a “special guest” at an upcoming rally when asked during the debate how he would assure voters he could handle the stresses of the presidency following his heart attack.
“Well, let me invite you all to a major rally we’re having in Queens, New York, BernieSanders.com. We’re going to have a special guest at that event, and we’re going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country,” Sanders said. “That is how I think I can reassure the American people.”
Ocasio-Cortez worked as a volunteer organizer for Sanders’ unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign before deciding to run for office herself. She also hit the campaign trail with Sanders in 2018, backing a primary candidate in a House race in Kansas after Ocasio-Cortez had defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley, then the House’s No. 4 Democrat, in a primary. That Kansas candidate, Brent Welder, went on to lose his primary race to now-Rep. Sharice Davids.