A pastor from the Bronx is challenging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her seat in the U.S. Congress. Fernando Cabrera is a city councilman and a pastor who hopes to move the 14th district of New York (and the country) away from Ocasio-Cortez’s democratic socialist agenda by running as a pro-capitalist democratic candidate.
“My biggest concern is socialism as being the biggest problem that we’re going to face in the future in America,” Cabrera told Fox News. Elaborating, he said, “I’ve seen firsthand what socialism has done to a country like Venezuela where my grandmother is buried.”
Who Is Fernando Cabrera?
Cabrera is the senior pastor of New Life Outreach International in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx. The church is Pentecostal, although Cabrera hesitates to use that term. He joked with Religion News Service that the word conjures up images of “somebody who doesn’t wear make up and doesn’t allow a woman to wear pants,” at least in his neighborhood.
In addition to being a pastor, Cabrera also serves as a city council member. Cabrera told Religion News that he had an “encounter with God” at the age of 17 that put him on a trajectory to become a pastor. He sees his role in public office as being aided by his experience as a pastor. “When you are a pastor, it keeps you grounded to the real needs—the burdens, the struggles, the challenges—that our communities are facing,” he said.
Cabrera’s background includes an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and a PhD in counseling. He worked as a guidance counselor for the New York City Department of Education and later became a professor at Mercy College. He was first elected to City Council in 2009, then again in 2013 and 2017. Cabrera’s family is Dominican and Puerto Rican, and he believes he represents the interests of people of faith who he feels are marginalized sometimes. Cabrera was a key player in the 2013 push to allow religious groups in New York City to gather for worship in public school property while not in use.
The city council member is also on the board of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which is led by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez.
Fernando Cabrera Faces an Uphill Battle
“I reflect the moderate, centrist values of that district,” Cabrera argues. Whether the district can be described as moderate and centrist really depends on who you ask, though.
When Ocasio-Cortez won the primary election for her district in June 2018, she was up against Joe Crowley, a 10-term Democrat. The win was seen as a big upset considering Ocasio-Cortez was working as a bartender and waitress before she ran for office. Her campaign was outspent by a margin of 18 to 1, yet she won the democratic ticket by almost 15 percentage points. During the general election in November 2018, Ocasio-Cortez faced Republican Anthony Pappas, who did not actively campaign. She won 78 percent of the vote to Pappas’ 14 percent.
Even if Ocasio-Cortez won her election by a surprising margin, does she still find favor in New York’s 14th district? Cabrera doesn’t think so. He accuses Ocasio-Cortez of ignoring issues that the district is grappling with, although in that brief interview with Fox News he didn’t elaborate on that point.
As far as polls go, Ocasio-Cortez’s popularity appears to be holding steady in the majority democrat 14th district. A Siena College poll conducted via telephone in April revealed she still holds favor among her constituents. According to a press release on the poll’s results, “48 percent of all voters and 61 percent of Democrats would vote to re-elect Ocasio-Cortez in 2020 while 39 percent would prefer someone else.” Her favor most likely lies in the legislation the freshman congresswoman is advocating. Don Levy of Sienna College explains:
About three-quarters of all voters and over 80 percent of Democrats are in favor of free tuition at public colleges across the country, banning assault weapons, a federal guarantee of a job that pays a living wage and Medicare for all. By two-to-one they support ‘The Green New Deal’ with Democrats at five-to-one although almost 40 percent do not have enough information about it in order to say. A majority oppose repealing and replacing Obamacare and a small majority would support impeaching the President.
Cabrera, alternatively, opposes Medicare for All and government-run health care, preferring instead a plan that would provide choice to consumers.
Additionally, Cabrera was upset by Ocasio-Cortez’s lobbying to dissuade city and state leaders in New York to offer incentives to Amazon, which was considering building a secondary headquarters in Queens, New York earlier this year. “We lost 25,000 jobs. We lost $27 billion worth of revenue,” [because of Ocasio-Cortez’s actions] Cabrera said.
“We understand in America that free enterprise works,” he believes.
As far as other key issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Cabrera says he personally does not agree with either practice, but is not looking to overturn the law of the land on those points.
Cabrera will face Ocasio-Cortez in the 2020 primary election for the democratic nomination.