NEW YORK • Firebrand Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders at a massive rally last Saturday that marked the septuagenarian's return to the campaign trail following a heart attack earlier this month.
"I call him 'tio Bernie'," Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 30, said at the rally in her Queens, New York, constituency that Mr Sanders said drew some 20,000 people. "Tio" means "uncle" in Spanish, the language of Puerto Rico where Ms Ocasio-Cortez has roots.
She is the youngest House of Representatives member and considers herself a "Democratic socialist", as does Mr Sanders who has been in Congress since 1991.
"We right now have one of the best Democratic presidential primary fields in a generation, and much of that is thanks to work that Bernie Sanders has done in his entire life," Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.
The Democratic primary field consists of 19 candidates, 12 of whom took part in a debate last Tuesday. Mr Sanders is running third in polls behind Mr Joe Biden and Ms Elizabeth Warren.
Battling to catch up in the polls with Ms Warren, the Sanders campaign is hoping for a boost from the show of support - and also to ward off concerns about his health.
"I am more than ready, more ready than ever, to carry on with you the epic struggle that we face today," Mr Sanders told the rally. "Put it bluntly: I am back!"
Ms Ocasio-Cortez has now joined her fellow first-year congresswoman Ilhan Omar, another member of the new Democratic guard, in endorsing Mr Sanders, 78.
Yet some of Mr Sanders's supporters acknowledged that his heart attack has made them consider other options.
The support from the two lawmakers comes as Mr Sanders tries to woo younger and more racially diverse backers.