clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ayanna Pressley wins the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District primary in an upset

Pressley’s win is another victory for candidates of color.

Boston City Councilwomen And House Democratic Candidate Ayanna Pressley Campaigns On Primary Day
Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley campaigns on September 4, 2018 in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

In another major win for candidates of color, Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley has won the Democratic nomination in Massachusetts’ Seventh Congressional District.

Pressley’s Tuesday night victory over Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) all but guarantees that she will head to Capitol Hill as a newly minted representative in January, since there is no Republican challenging her in November. Pressley is making history; she will become the first African-American Massachusetts voters have sent to the US House of Representatives.

The 44-year-old Pressley’s challenge to Capuano, himself a longtime progressive Democrat, sent a resounding sign that the voters in the Seventh Congressional District — a liberal area encompassing parts of Boston and Cambridge — were ready for a change.

Unlike other races around the state, Pressley wasn’t exactly running against a centrist Democrat. Capuano has burnished his liberal record for years; he voted against the Iraq War, supports Medicare-for-all, and is a member of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The Boston City Council member’s campaign had national progressive groups excited that she could be the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she’s not an outsider in Massachusetts politics. Pressley served as a senior aide to former Sen. John Kerry and interned for former Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office. She’s arguing that she will shake up Washington, DC, and is running on Medicare-for-all and a litany of other progressive issues.

But Pressley wasn’t just running on a progressive message, she was arguing that her own experience as a person of color made her more qualified to represent the district than an older white man — no matter how liberal. People of color make up the majority of the Seventh Congressional District’s residents, but as local public radio station WBUR noted, white people make up the majority of the voters there.

Pressley spoke on the importance of representing voters of color recently.

Congressional Candidate Ayanna Pressley Just Gave the Speech on 'Identity Politics' Everyone Needs to Hear

This is the speech about 'identity politics' every American needs to hear

Posted by NowThis Politics on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

One of the few policy differences between Capuano and Pressley was a so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bill, which would make assaulting a police officer a federal crime. Capuano and the rest of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation voted for the House version of the bill, a decision Pressley criticized.

Her victory adds to a growing list of victories for candidates of color across the nation. Last week, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum pulled off an upset in Florida’s Democratic nomination for governor. In doing so, he made history; Gillum is Florida’s first African-American gubernatorial nominee.

Pressley’s win adds to an exciting moment for progressive groups, but also for black Democrats. The Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, Stacey Abrams, could make history as the nation’s first African-American woman governor if she wins. Other women of color, including Lauren Underwood in Illinois, Jahana Hayes in Connecticut, Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, and Lucy McBath in Georgia are the nominees for their respective congressional districts.

It’s something Pressley could not forget on Tuesday night.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.