AOC, Caruso-Cabrera debate gets personal with heated jabs
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got into a heated virtual debate with her chief Democratic primary opponent, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, this week — and the exchanges got very personal.
Caruso-Cabrera accused AOC of staying in her “luxury” DC apartment complex with a “Whole Foods in the lobby” during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged constituents in her Bronx-Queens district while Congress was out of session.
The congresswoman hit back that Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor, previously resided in a pricey apartment in a Trump building and that AOC is active in the district and her family has roots there.
“This is where my uncle is. There is where my brother is. This is where my family is,” AOC said after mentioning that she intervened in a dispute with Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents on behalf of immigrant kids at LaGuardia Airport in Queens.
But Caruso-Cabrera responded, “AOC says her family lives here. Her mother moved to Florida because the taxes are too high.”
That set off Ocasio-Cortez, who told Caruso-Cabrera it was a cheap shot to bring up her mother.
“You can come after me all you want. Leave my mom out of it. My mom is a widow,” AOC said.
“My mother is a school secretary who makes an hourly wage that’s laid off. You don’t know her. You don’t know what she’s been through. Leave my mom out of it. It’s really wrong.”
The 14th Congressional District virtual debate Monday night, sponsored by BronxNet and hosted by Gary Axelbank, is being replayed on its YouTube channel.
Caruso-Cabrera went on to blast the first-term Democratic socialist for voting against a House bill last year to repeal a portion of President Trump’s tax reform bill that limited state and local tax deductions that largely benefit higher-income New Yorkers. The bill was not taken up in the GOP-run Senate.
“AOC voted to raise taxes on New Yorkers,” Caruso-Cabrera charged.
During much of the debate, Caruso-Cabrera was on the attack — repeatedly charging that “AOC is MIA” while criticizing her opposition to Amazon locating a headquarters in the Big Apple and her congressional voting record. She also called the far-left incumbent a divisive figure in the Democratic Party.
“We have to have an attitudinal shift toward jobs. We can’t tell job creators, ‘Go away, we don’t want your 25,000 jobs [referring to the aborted Amazon project].’ I’m never going to do that,” Caruso-Cabrera said.
She pointed out that AOC was the only Democrat in the House to vote against the COVID recovery legislation last month — the Payroll Protection Plan — that included money for small businesses, health care and testing.
AOC defended her vote, saying the bill was skewed toward Wall Street and the rich and “not structured in a way” to help small businesses, and excluded immigrants. She said constituents who called her office were overwhelmingly opposed to it.
She said she was willing to stand alone when necessary.
Caruso-Cabrera scoffed at the explanation, accusing AOC of being the lone dissenter “to get her name in a headline.”
“It’s what you always do. You’re always working on your celebrity status. No bill is ever perfect. But we have to start somewhere and we had to work quickly,” she said.
After Caruso-Cabrera slammed the congresswoman for staying in her DC abode, Ocasio-Cortez claimed she “wasn’t feeling well” and “wanted to take a few days off.” She insisted she has a strong presence in the district and raised nearly $500,000 for local food pantries and helped delivered food to constituents.
AOC also fired back at Caruso-Cabrera’s bona fides.
“It’s quite funny. She lived in a $15,000-a-month Trump tower apartment until six months ago [the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle]. This woman probably couldn’t locate Sunnyside on a map until she decided to challenge me for the sake of challenging me. She doesn’t care about the Bronx. She doesn’t care about Queens,” the congresswoman said.
She also said Caruso-Cabrera’s campaign was bankrolled by “multimillionaires” and real estate developers and bankers.
On other issues, Ocasio-Cortez plugged a government-run Medicare for All to improve medical coverage for more Americans. Caruso-Cabrera dismissed the plan as taking away popular insurance programs for union workers.
AOC promoted her Green New Deal plan to combat climate change and said “the door is open” to embracing nuclear energy as well as solar and wind power.
Caruso-Cabrera called the Green deal “ineffectual” because the program ignores China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters.
Two other candidates who participated in the debate were Badrun Khan, president of the Jalalabad Association, and chess player Sam Sloan, a perennial candidate.