Ayanna Pressley won a major victory in the race for Massachusetts’s seventh congressional district when she upset 10-term Representative Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary earlier this week.
She now runs unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election and is poised to become the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
Pressley’s upset victory over a more moderate Democratic opponent was a surprise to many. Capuano, a graduate of Boston College Law School, held office for more than 20 years and received endorsements from many of Boston’s most influential political leaders, including Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
Many are calling Pressley’s victory a departure from the traditional order of Boston politics and a “wake-up call” for the Democratic establishment. Her triumph is reminiscent of the New York democratic primary earlier this year, in which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term Representative Joe Crowley. Both of these upset election results seem to follow a growing trend in Democratic voters choosing more diverse, progressive political newcomers.
Although the two Massachusetts candidates shared very similar policy platforms, Pressley ran with the campaign slogan “Change Can’t Wait,” and she was particularly outspoken in her advocacy for racial minorities and other underrepresented groups.
“It seems like change is on the way,” Pressley told her supporters after the election results were tallied. “We have together ushered in something incredible.”
Prior to her bid for Congress, Pressley served on the Boston City Council. Here, she founded the Committee on Healthy Women, Communities, and Families. She was the first woman of color to be elected in the Council’s 100-year history, helping to pave the way for six other women of color who were subsequently elected to the Council.
Amirah Orozco, MCAS '19 and a participant in the 2017 Summit, expressed her views on the significance of Pressley’s victory in an interview with The Gavel.
“Pressley's election is symbolically powerful,” she said.
“There have been 229 years between the first House of Representatives session and now. That is more than 114 elections, and Pressley is the first woman of color to be elected in Massachusetts,” said Orozco.
“This seat is important because it is in a majority-minority district, meaning that the majority of the people [comprise racially marginalized groups]. Therefore, the fact that she is not only a woman, but also a Black woman is vital to making sure that the needs of these people are attended to.”
Current Women’s Summit Director Tess Murphy, MCAS '19, also weighed in on the historic election, commenting that “Pressley is a powerful leader and her election highlights the importance of representation within our government. Her presence will lead to more informed decisions in Congress.”
“The mission of the Boston College Women's Summit is 'to empower women of all backgrounds to realize their individual and collective potential to rise together and enact change,' and Pressley is doing just that. We were so honored to have her speak at last year’s Summit, and we continue to support her in her endeavors,” Murphy concluded.
“This [Pressley’s victory] is immensely important not only for the state of Massachusetts but also for the black and minority community at large. [Although] Massachusetts remains one of the most progressive states within the country, it is a state which continues to face an immense dichotomy in economic and social prosperity along racial lines.”
The statement also highlighted the similarities between Pressley and Capuano's policy platforms. "This reveals that within the Trump era, it is no longer just one’s policy which determines the outcome of an election, but whether the community is being [sufficiently] reflected by the government.”
“Americans want representatives in Congress [who] will actively oppose and fervently fight the changes this administration is attempting to make,” the statement relayed. “That is the promise that Pressley has made to her constituents. People want to counter the racism that has intensified during the Trump Presidency...It is for this reason that the College Democrats of Boston College is excited with the outcome of this primary...and what it means for the Democratic Party and our country going forward."