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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surging national profile has inspired a trio of Republican opponents from her home district — along with a multimillionaire mystery donor who could help close the gap in her foes’ long-shot race against her.
Just three months after taking office, the Democratic socialist congresswoman’s challengers include an Egyptian American journalist, who has already tossed her hat in the ring, and an NYPD cop-turned-high school civics teacher and conservative talk radio producer, both of whom are seriously exploring a run against her.
And the fledgling challengers could get help from a wealthy New Yorker committed to backing an Ocasio-Cortez opponent, a GOP big said.
“There’s definitely national energy and money on this race,” Bronx Republican chairman Mike Rendino told The Post, adding that he has been in touch with a mega-bucks donor hell-bent on getting AOC tossed. Rendino wouldn’t divulge the donor’s name but said the individual is “worth over $200 million, plus [has] connections to raise money in Manhattan.”
Tom Doherty, a former deputy to former Gov. George Pataki, said a Republican challenger to AOC would be able to “raise real national money. “We need to put individuals forward and make the incumbent work for re-election,” Doherty said.
The three potential contenders agree on one thing: They believe Ocasio-Cortez has neglected her district, which encompasses a northeast section of the Bronx including Throgs Neck and Parkchester and a northwest portion of Queens including Jackson Heights and College Point.
It took the congresswoman two months to open a district office in Queens. “She completely ignores the people in this district,” medical writer Ruth Papazian, 61, told The Post during an interview at the homestyle Italian eatery Patricia’s of Morris Park.
Papazian still lives a few blocks away with her 85-year-old mother in the same apartment she grew up in after her parents emigrated from Egypt in 1956.
“I’ve lived here my whole life. I know the heart and soul of this community. The people here have scratched and clawed their way into the middle class, and they’re not about to be impoverished with the high taxes it will take to make the Green New Deal and Medicare for all,” Papazina said, citing two of Ocasio-Cortez’s policy goals.
Papazian is the only area Republican to have committed to running against Ocasio-Cortez — the others are exploring potential races. Papazian has yet to launch a website or establish a fundraising operation.
But she has huddled with President Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, at a Lincoln Day dinner in Queens. “He was encouraging and offered to be helpful when Ruth has demonstrated that she can raise enough money for a serious race,” a source told The Post.
A rep for Lewandowski did not return messages seeking comment. Meanwhile, former NYPD Officer John Cummings has been talking to Rendino.
Cummings, 58, teaches US government at St. Raymond High School for Boys in Parkchester. “I know it’s a difficult road because this is a heavily Democratic district,” said Cummings, who also attended St. Raymond’s.
Ocasio-Cortez won the 14th Congressional District with more than 78 percent of the vote, and Hillary Clinton led the district by over 57 points in 2016.
A recent Siena College Poll found that 52 percent of AOC’s constituents view her favorably — but just 33 percent backed her opposition to Amazon establishing a second headquarters in Queens, and 41 percent support her Green New Deal.
But Cummings says the congresswoman ignores more home-grown problems like the long-haul truck drivers who use Pelham Bay Park as a rest stop. “She’s only interested in a national platform, and we need local representation,” Cummings said.
Rich Valdes, 40, who worked for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before joining radio’s “The Mark Levin Show” as a producer, joked that the congresswoman’s initials could also stand for “ambition over constituents.”
Valdes launched an exploratory committee in February. He’s met with Republican clubs in the Bronx and Queens.
“They’re really, really kind of discouraged at the fact that she was elected on this platform of representing the district because she ran against [former Rep. Joe] Crowley, positing him as being no-show, and she’d turned out to be very much the same way a no-show person,” Valdes said.
Ocasio-Cortez’s 10-term predecessor, Crowley, lost to the 28-year-old liberal activist in last year’s primary after skipping two campaign debates.
But her spokesman, Corbin Trent, defended his boss’ record. “I couldn’t disagree more with people who are suggesting that the congresswoman isn’t present enough in the district,” Trent said.
“She’s done town halls, community board meetings, been available for office hours, she’s sat with activists and organizers and had a very strong presence in the district.”
Citing AOC’s strong polling numbers, Trent added, “The reason she has the support of the people in the district is they realize the work she’s doing at a national level is tying back to the district — Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, all these priorities.”