Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley scored a major Massachusetts Democratic Party primary upset Tuesday, riding a wave of support for her pledge to be an agent for progressive change in her district’s long-neglected communities.
“These times require bold activist leadership and someone who will organize, lead and legislate to improve these disparate outcomes,” she added.
She described the district, which she’s expected to start representing in Congress in 2019, as arguably the most progressive and diverse in the nation. Yet it’s also the most unequal. In a short trip from Cambridge to the historically Black neighborhood of Roxbury, there are huge disparities in wealth and life expectancy.
“The truth be told, these inequalities existed long before Trump occupied the White House,” she noted.
Pressley vowed to champion bread-and-butter issues for her constituents, such as improved housing, public health and education, as well as economic development and criminal justice reform.
There’s a lot of work ahead. Greater Boston’s African-American community has a median net worth of just $8 compared to $247,500 for whites—a contrast so stark that the Boston Globe emphasized that the Black net worth figure is not a typo. That figure means that African-American debts and assets are roughly equal.
Pressley, 44, is on track to become the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress as Republicans don’t have a candidate to compete for this deep blue congressional seat.
Despite trailing in the polls leading up to the primary, Pressley won 58.9 percent of the vote to 41.1 percent for the 66-year-old, 10-term incumbent Rep. Michael E. Capuano, who had the support of the party’s establishment.
“Clearly, the district wanted a lot of change. Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman,” Capuano said, acknowledging his defeat to supporters Tuesday night.
Democratic colleagues in Congress viewed Capuano as a reliable liberal vote.
“A reliable vote is not enough,” Pressley told NewsOne. “Just because Representative Capuano has voted the right way and has a progressive voting record, that is not a profile in courage. That’s baseline to keep your job in a district that is the most progressive in the country, a seat once held by JFK.”