Five female progressive rising stars to watch in 2024

There are plenty of progressive female rising stars who could fill an open primary if President Biden decides not to run for the White House in 2024 — or in future campaign cycles. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is one of the most well-known and beloved figures on the left, and many Democrats would like to see her take another shot at the nomination, arguing she has the name recognition, policy chops and political firepower to do it. 

But there are also relative newcomers waiting in the wings who, if they ran, could offer voters a gender, generational and ideological change.

“I would love to see a progressive woman win our party’s nomination, and beyond Elizabeth Warren, whom I proudly supported in 2020, I think there are several progressive women who could build a winning coalition,” said Charlotte Clymer, a writer and Democratic strategist who said she would back Biden if he runs for a second term.

“If, for some reason, he is no longer seeking reelection, I offer a word of caution to prospective male candidates,” she added. “Do not underestimate the general desire among women (and many men) in our party to see a progressive woman lead our nation.”  

Here are five female progressives to watch for 2024: 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) listens during a House Financial Services Committee oversight hearing of the largest U.S. banks on Wednesday, September 21, 2022. (Greg Nash)

Ocasio-Cortez does not need help getting her name out there. She’s so recognizable that she’s known simply as “AOC,” and Democrats in both wings of the party give her credit for her brand-building acumen and power to draw fans in.  

“One of the things AOC has tapped into is she has that ‘it’ factor,” said McKenzie Wilson, communications director for Data for Progress, a progressive consultancy and polling firm. “Whether or not you like her or hate her, she captivates eyeballs.” 

That established star power makes exploring a presidential bid much easier. Where other progressives would have to spend months introducing themselves to voters, doing media tours and raising money, the New York congresswoman already has a built-in network that could help her rise quickly and keep a campaign going for a while.  

“Some people are basically saying that Ocasio’s the heir apparent,” said a source who has talked with the congresswoman in the past about exploring a bid. But for now, “she doesn’t” want to take that path, the source stressed. 

Ocasio-Cortez, 33, waded into several primaries this cycle for candidates who ultimately weren’t successful, including Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner against Biden-backed Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) and Jessica Cisneros, who challenged Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the most conservative Democrat serving in the House.

But her presence as a potential primary candidate herself, rather than as an endorser, would likely have a bigger imprint on the nature of the election, Democrats say. 

“I think she could make one pretty damn interesting,” the source acknowledged about an open race. 

Stacey Abrams 

Stacey Abrams’ political prospects will largely hinge on the outcome of the Georgia gubernatorial race between she and incumbent candidate Gov. Brian Kemp (R). (Getty)

Democrats are wondering aloud what the predominant political narrative will be around Abrams, 48, after November.  

If she wins a tough rematch to be Georgia’s next governor against Republican incumbent Brian Kemp, she is expected to jump to many Democrats’ shortlists for viable candidates. 

Abrams already caught Biden’s attention during his vice presidential search, and her signature issue of voting rights could become a powerful rallying cry at a time when Democrats accuse Republicans of engaging in efforts to curb access to the ballot box.

Democrats, including some top fixtures in Biden’s inner circle, widely regard her as competent, well liked and in touch with many of the progressive issues voters care about. That ranges from things like climate change and affordable housing to expanding Medicaid and investing in rural parts of the country that have largely fallen to Republicans.  

If she doesn’t win, however, her immediate political future is less certain. Polls show her several points behind Kemp, with Democrats deploying resources to help make sure voters come out for her on Election Day.

“If you are a Democratic candidate and you lose your race, there’s kind of nowhere for you to go,” Wilson said. “Republicans are more willing to have candidates run for higher office that don’t check all their boxes. Democrats want to fall in love, and we nominate super qualified people.”  

But being “super qualified” often doesn’t guarantee victory, she added. 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) is seen during a House Financial Services Committee hearing to discuss the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress on Thursday, June 23, 2022.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) is seen during a House Financial Services Committee hearing to discuss the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress on Thursday, June 23, 2022. (Greg Nash)

Pressley broke with other “squad” members when she endorsed Warren over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, staying true to the Massachusetts delegation’s biggest liberal who many in the party celebrate.

After defeating former Rep. Michael Capuano in the 7th Congressional District’s Democratic primary in 2018, Pressley has become a local sensation in her own right. 

She got the attention of voters who saw her advocacy on gender and racial justice issues and, most recently, on student debt relief as much needed priorities in Congress, especially at a time of less racial, generational and ideological diversity in the House. 

That support has continued to grow to a wider electorate and an elevated presence in the chamber. In 2020, Pressley, who is now 48, ran for reelection without a primary opponent, solidifying her standing among constituents in the solidly blue district.

Like other newer representatives, she’s not a broadly known entity. But she has taken steps to raise her public stature, including stumping for Warren and speaking publicly about her experience recovering from sexual assault, moves that could help her galvanize support among women and other key constituencies. 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) 

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., speaks to the crowd during the second March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Washington. (Associated Press)

Progressives who know Bush really like her. They like that she doesn’t back away from tough rhetoric like “defund the police” when the party’s political winds currently favor a tougher-on-crime stance. 

And they like that her words are followed by actions: She recently voted against a package of bills on policing before it ultimately passed in the House. 

Many liberal Democrats also love that she regularly embraces policy fights that push the Biden administration farther than officials often want to go. 

“Cori Bush is fantastic,” said Cenk Uygur, host of the left-wing show The Young Turks. “Biden needs to be challenged from the left.”

Demographically, Bush ticks a lot of the boxes the progressive wing is looking for in their next presidential candidate: She’s young (46), Midwestern, a Black woman and, perhaps most notably, is familiar with the country’s working class in a way that puts her in touch with many Americans

But the very things progressives love about her could also alienate the broader electorate, including moderate Democrats who view her as too controversial for a general election audience. She’s also much less known than other members of the squad, including Ocasio-Cortez, making a possible 2024 bid more of an uphill battle.   

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) 

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.), who shares many policy positions with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), does not have the same national profile as the senator at this point but is making moves to get her there. (Greg Nash)

California is at the center of national attention as its Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, continues to crusade against his GOP counterparts across the country and as the Los Angeles mayoral election faces an onslaught of criticism for racist comments made by City Council members that were caught on tape.   

Far away from the scandal and suspense is Porter, a progressive representative from Orange County and arguably Warren’s closest ally in Congress.

A former student of the Massachusetts senator’s at Harvard Law School, both Warren and Porter share similar anti-corruption and monopoly positions, particularly regarding the tech industry. While Porter doesn’t yet have the same interest level as Warren, she’s making moves that could help her down the line if she wants to build out a national profile. 

One of those steps is putting her message on paper. Her upcoming memoir, titled “I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan,” is set to come out well ahead of the next presidential cycle. The book chronicles her unlikely ascent to the House and journey through a tough Republican climate in a right-wing part of California.

“Never having run for office before, Katie Porter charted a new path in 2018 when she was elected to Congress as a Democrat in historically conservative Orange County, California,” the publisher’s note reads. “Underestimated as a single mom and chided for her progressive values, Katie defied expectations.”

Both Porter and Bush have forthcoming books detailing their personal experiences. 

“Reps. AOC, Pressley, Porter, and Bush all have what it takes,” said Clymer, the Democratic strategist. “They have heart and know the needs of the most vulnerable communities in our country.”

Tags Ayanna Pressley Biden Brian Kemp Elizabeth Warren Shontel Brown Stacey Abrams
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