By Joyce Fegan, in America
Women, both running and voting in record numbers, will decide the American election. And the face of that pink wave is 29-year-old New Yorker Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez.
Security at her first-floor Queens’ office is tight on election day. A large sign reads: ‘Press must email email@example.com.’
Her rise to national and international attention has been steep – ever since her shock win in the Democratic primary race in July, this breakthrough political star has been on the cover of Vanity Fair, and received write-ups in The Guardian, The New Yorker and further afield, in places like Japan and Germany.
Allyson Espinal is Ocasio’s youngest intern – her Bolivian grandmother cleaned up the rubble left after 9/11, permanently damaging her lungs. So for Allyson, politics is personal. Her mother is Bolivian and her father is from the Dominican Republic.
“It was hard when they (her parents and grandparents) got here (America), my grandma from my mom’s side was working many jobs. She worked with asbestos. She was part of the clean-up crew, for construction, for 9/11, so she suffers with a lot of lung problems.
“Working here (in America) and making sure they had shelter was hard, but getting here, she thankfully knew people that could help her out. She’s still alive but she’ll have lung problems from cleaning up from 9/11, from all that dust,” explains Allyson in the busy, small, but extremely organised Ocasio campaign office.
On the night before the election she stayed up late to get all her homework done and was at the campaign office for 6am. Other nights she’s got one-and-a-half hours' sleep.
Her family’s passage to America, and her own "privilege" as a result, is what spurs her on, both personally and politically.
“Things like that push me to make sure I’m having my voice heard because she (her grandmother) did all this work to make sure her children could get a better life and their children and things like that.
“I need to make sure I actually pull through. My mom did too, she was able to go to college – she got accepted into NYU. She was able to push on,” says Allyson, who began interning with Ocasio two weeks before she won the primaries.
She started out cold-calling the electorate, which was “interesting.” It seems some people, had a problem with Ocasio’s massive success in the primaries and her continued rise to national and international prominence.
“You get a few people who say: ‘Oh Ocasio this, we don’t like her at all, she’s inexperienced, she’s too young, she’s a woman, you know things like that?
“After she won (her primary) a lot of people would call the office actually and send a lot of hate speech messages and things like that. This one guy called back like four times in a row, just to go: ‘Who does she think she is?’,” explains Allyson.
And who were these people?
“Men, and a lot of ‘mansplaining’ too,” she answers, adding that even male voters who supported Ocasio had words of advice for her.
“So men who even did like her were like: ‘Oh I voted for her, she’s great,’ and then would email us and say: ‘Oh hey, so like you’re great and all but you’re getting a few things wrong,’ and they tried to ‘mansplain’ her,” says Allyson.
However, when America wakes up on Wednesday morning, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrats rising star, will likely have a seat in their House of Representatives, as the youngest ever woman. And it doesn’t stop there, Allyson, when she’s old enough, plans to run for Congress too.
In total, 257 women ran for the Senate and House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. However, 2,657 people ran overall, making their representation less than 10%, but still 50% higher than 2016's elections.
By Joyce Fegan, in America
People are hard to hate close up, especially in America.
One man, who reluctantly tells me he was born in Colombia, advises that I get out of the rain before I get pneumonia.
Another woman, whose husband is Puerto Rican, hangs around the polling station to shelter me with her small umbrella.
Away from the polling stations of Queens, New York, women huddle around TV screens in their neighbourhood laundromat watching election coverage, stores offer 10% if you can show you voted and the rain pours down in heavy, unabated sheets.
“I just took an elderly couple who live in my mom’s building to their voting place, it’s a heavy turnout, this rain is not going to deter voters, absolutely not,” says George Bonfante.
George lives in the Jackson Heights neighbourhood of Queens, so diverse, that you could be anywhere in the world going just on people’s faces.
“Unity is what we need, divisiveness is what we don’t need. Forget you being a Democrat or a Republican,” he says walking straight out of the polling booth.
He voted democrat, as did every single person I spoke to in Jackson Heights, part of a district that is about to elect the youngest ever woman, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, to Congress.
However, the locals here weren’t always staunch liberals.
Nayab Rizvi, who moved to America from India in 1973, used to vote Republican.
“This is very important to vote, especially this year. I used to be a Republican you know, then I changed my mind,” explains Nayab.
When and how did this change come about?
“When Bush came as President, since then, they changed a lot of policies. I’m not happy with Trump’s policies, so now I’m voting for the Democratic party,” he answers while adding that life in America has been very good to him.
Someone who has experienced the nastier side of the anti-immigrant sentiment is Ella Rubin.
Ella had a stranger shout at her on the street that she had crossbred – the woman was pointing towards her three-year-old daughter.
“It’s just horrible that our President is a hateful person, because my kids are mixed, you know?
“And for me, yeah I’m good, I walk around, I have a Jewish last name, but to know that my kids have a Hispanic last name and to know they’re considered immigrants in his (Trump’s) eyes, it’s just horrible,” she says, visibly emotional.
Ella says her area is mostly Democratic and it was in a state of shock when Trump was elected in 2016.
“The day Trump was elected this place was quiet, people walking around like: ‘What happened?’,” she says.
But on this election day, with the rain pouring down, her neighbours are busy casting ballots, in what most people consider a referendum on Trump himself.