When Michelle Caruso-Cabrera ’91 first arrived at Wellesley College she was a fish out of water. Coming from a small town, she felt out of place among the “sophisticated,” mostly affluent women from big cities like New York. While they spent their first summers at unpaid internships that had been lined up for them, she spent her summer working so that she could pay her college tuition. According to Caruso-Cabrera, it was her father who made this decision, telling her, “I want you to know what it is like to be a member of the working class… I want you to know how the rest of America lives.”
However, Caruso-Cabrera is no longer spending summers at home. After a successful career in journalism, the former CNBC reporter is now running for House District New York-14 in a primary that will take place on June 23. Caruso-Cabrera joined a dozen other primary challengers to incumbent Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens.
“I got into this race because I am the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants,” Caruso-Cabrera said. “Because of their experiences, I was able to live their American Dream and I believe in that American Dream.”
The candidate, who is running as a Democrat, falls to the political right of Orcasio-Cortez, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist and who has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential primary.
Wellesley gives women strength
Caruso-Cabrera came to Wellesley in 1987 on a National Merit Scholarship, having served as editor of her school’s newspaper, and then graduating second in her high school class. During college, she continued in journalism and became the Editor-in-Chief of The Wellesley News while concurrently writing for the education section of the New York Times. She graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
According to Caruso-Cabrera, Wellesley had a “huge impact” on her career, along with her parents and the privilege of living in the United States.
“Wellesley gives women strength,” Caruso-Cabrera said in an interview with The Wellesley News. “Wellesley gives me the strength in many ways to try something very, very different and something that’s going to be enormously difficult.”
The alum is currently number 28 on the Wellesley 100 and was named one of the most influential Hispanics in the country by Hispanic Business Magazine.
“She’s very articulate,” economics professor Joseph Joyce said. “Whether or not you agree with some of her political beliefs, she’ll engage you.”
Joyce recalls having Caruso-Cabrera in his class, though much of his current impressions of her are based on her record and subsequent visits to Wellesley for economics alumni reunions. He cites her ability to climb up the ranks of a male-dominated industry as proof of her work ethic and intelligence.
“Don’t underestimate this woman. She’s good,” Joyce said. “I certainly would not put money against Michelle.”
Following graduation, Caruso-Cabrera was a researcher and reporter for Univision, an American Spanish-language television network, earning an Emmy for her work on a series documenting the lives of children with AIDS. Additionally, in 2004, she received a Broadcaster of the Year award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She later spent four years on general assignment for WTSP-TV, an affiliate of CBS located in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Don’t underestimate this woman
In 1998, Caruso-Cabrera joined CNBC and served as a co-host for Power Lunch with Bill Griffeth from 2002 to 2003. She continued to work for the network for 20 years and served as its Chief International Correspondent, covering the European financial crisis and more. Since leaving CNBC in 2018, Caruso-Cabrera has served as a contributor, although she will step down from that role for the duration of her campaign.
According to Caruso-Cabrera, she has had an “intense amount of interactions” with the residents of NY-14 in order to prepare for the campaign ahead.
“[I’ve been] spending lots and lots of time talking to them about what concerns them, what they need, what they’re looking for in a representative of congress and I very much want to give that to them,” Caruso-Cabrera said. “They want someone who’s actually going to be here a lot and they haven’t had that from their current representative and that bothers them.”
There are three issues she’s heard the most about from the district’s residents, 50 percent of whom are unable to vote due to lack of citizenship: increasing the quality and number of jobs, bettering the local education system, and reducing crime. In particular, she has called attention to the controversy surrounding Amazon’s ill-fated bid to open a second headquarters in Queens which occurred under Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s term and garnered strong opposition from the representative.
“You’ve got to be able to identify with your constituents and I absolutely do,” Caruso-Cabrera said. “I see in them the dreams that my grandparents and my parents have and that their children have that they want to be able to do what I was able to do.”