November 28, 2021

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AOC Democratic challenger lived in Trump building before Queens move

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman progressive from New York, is facing more than a dozen challengers in her reelection race this year.
  • Perhaps the strongest contender is the former CNBC host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former registered Republican who is running in the Democratic primary and has raised almost $1 million.
  • While Caruso-Cabrera accused Ocasio-Cortez of being “out of touch” with her constituents and living in a luxury apartment in Washington, DC, Caruso-Cabrera only moved to the Bronx-Queens district late last year after residing for several years in Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan.
  • Caruso-Cabrera renounced several of the positions she took in her 2010 book promoting fiscal conservatism. She told Insider in a recent interview that, if she could go back, she would have “written that book differently.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman progressive from New York, is facing more than a dozen challengers in her reelection race this year.

Arguably the strongest contender to replace the democratic socialist is the former CNBC host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, 53, who is running in the Democratic primary in the Bronx-Queens district and raised almost $1 million in the first quarter of this year.

Caruso-Cabrera, a former self-described “Whole Foods Republican” who wrote a 2010 book calling for small government and fiscal conservatism, is positioning herself as a pro-business centrist to the right of Ocasio-Cortez.

She’s also repeatedly attacked Ocasio-Cortez’s constituent services and accused her of staying in her “luxury apartment with a Whole Foods in the lobby” in Washington, DC, and ignoring her district as it became the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak.

In a recent interview with Insider, Caruso-Cabrera said the first-term congresswoman was “out of touch” with her district, “doesn’t know what it takes to put food on the table and to put a roof over the head of a family,” and was masquerading as a Bronx native.

Ocasio-Cortez, who worked as a bartender to support her financially struggling family, was born in the Bronx and lived there until her family moved north to Yorktown in Westchester County when she was 5 years old. She moved back to the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx after college.

“She’s from Westchester, don’t forget. She didn’t grow up in the Bronx like she claims,” Caruso-Cabrera said. “And everybody in the Bronx knows it.”

But Caruso-Cabrera, a New Hampshire native who lived in Manhattan for 20 years, told Insider she moved to New York’s 14th Congressional District only late last year when she and her husband took up residence in Sunnyside, Queens.

Insider found that Caruso-Cabrera and her husband recently lived in an apartment in Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle in Manhattan for several years. A representative for the campaign confirmed that Caruso-Cabrera moved into her husband’s apartment at 1 Central Park West, which he rented for nine years.

StreetEasy reported that the two-bedroom home rented for nearly $15,000 a month in 2011, while similar apartments in the same building are being offered for $9,000 to $13,000 a month.

Katy Delgado, a spokeswoman for Caruso-Cabrera’s campaign, declined to comment on the cost of the apartment and instead said the campaign would “address those questions” when Ocasio-Cortez addressed conservative groups’ accusations that she violated campaign-finance laws in 2018.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks to reporters outside the US Capitol building.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talking to reporters outside the US Capitol.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As the Bronx and Queens have become the communities hardest-hit by the novel coronavirus, Caruso-Cabrera has shifted her focus from campaigning to helping deliver food and supplies to constituents and hospitals. Ocasio-Cortez has similarly zeroed in on the local and federal response efforts, raising funds and distributing supplies in her district.

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication, but a spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told the New York Post earlier this month that Ocasio-Cortez “has remained actively engaged in all district business” while she’s traveled to and from Washington.

Caruso-Cabrera slammed her opponent’s vote against the fourth federal stimulus package, which Ocasio-Cortez argued was a “small, patchwork bill” that didn’t include enough funding for small businesses and state and local governments. Ocasio-Cortez was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.

A big-business candidate in an economic crisis

When Caruso-Cabrera decided to run for Congress last year, she says, she was motivated by Ocasio-Cortez’s controversial opposition to New York’s deal with Amazon — which later fell through — for a secondary headquarters in Queens.

Now that the country has been plunged into an ever-worsening recession, Caruso-Cabrera contends that New York City could use Amazon jobs more than ever.

While Amazon has continued to hire in New York despite pulling out of the headquarters deal, business interests have shown their support for this message. The Chamber of Commerce, a business-advocacy group that normally backs Republicans, is planning to endorse and fundraise for her. And reports with the Federal Election Commission revealed earlier this month that upward of four dozen Wall Street financiers, including the leaders of Goldman Sachs and other prominent private equity and investment executives, had donated to Caruso-Cabrera’s campaign.

Ocasio-Cortez, herself a prolific fundraiser, has raked in almost $8 million for her 2020 race as she’s railed against Wall Street and big business on Capitol Hill.

Caruso-Cabrera defended her donors and said she’s “proud” that business leaders supported her.

“People who create jobs are the ones that want to support me,” she said.

While the candidate has remained consistent over the years in her support for big business, she’s evolved dramatically on other key policy issues. In her 2010 book, “You Know I’m Right: More Prosperity, Less Government,” Caruso-Cabrera called for privatizing both Medicare and Social Security, which she described as “the country’s biggest pyramid schemes.”

She made the case for tax cuts, deregulation, ending public-sector unions, and eliminating federal cabinet agencies.

But, 10 years later, she’s reversed her positions on key issues, including America’s safety net, which is particularly crucial in the disproportionately low-income district she hopes to represent. While she hasn’t proposed or endorsed any specific policies, she says she’s open to a public option on the Obamacare marketplace and supports labor’s right to organize.

“That book is quite old, and would I have written that book differently? Yes, I would have,” she told Insider. “What I would tell you is that I absolutely believe in preserving Social Security and Medicare, especially for the poor and the elderly.”

Caruso-Cabrera, who left her post as a CNBC correspondent to join the board of directors of the financial services company Beneficient in 2018, argued that she’s become more interested in compromise over the past several years and has abandoned the “ardent” politics of her past.

“When you’re younger, you have ideas that are so fixed, they’re ardent. And then as you grow older you realize those ideas can be brittle and they break,” she said. “And you learn over time that there’s got to be a lot more commonality. You’ve got to work with people, you have to unite people.”

But Caruso-Cabrera promoted her book on her Instagram as recently as October 2018, adding a special thanks to Larry Kudlow, a former CNBC host who is now the top economic adviser to President Donald Trump and who wrote the book’s foreword.

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