Massachusetts Representative-elect Ayanna Pressley remained true to the message she shared with NewsOne before winning her primary race for Congress: The Democratic Party is at a crossroads and must support Black female candidates to succeed in the future.
“I think our campaign is asking the question, ‘Democrats, are we really who we say we are or do we just roll out hashtags and bumper stickers to make for cute slogans’?” she told NewsOne when asked about the party’s failure to support her and other women of color.
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At a gathering Tuesday of party donors in Washington, D.C., Pressley talked to the audience about the record high number of Democratic female candidates who won elections in 2018, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by BuzzFeed News.
“Now we must push ourselves to ask the tough questions about whether or not we provided them with the institutional support so we can break through more glass and concrete ceilings as rapidly as possible,” she said, adding that the party must invest in candidate diversity, as well as inclusion at the staff level.
The House freshman class is the most racially and gender diverse in history, as the New York Times mapped out. It includes several members who are the first African-American women to represent their state or district, including Pressley, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Jahana Hayes from Connecticut and Georgia’s Lucy McBath.
Unlike the other three, Pressley and many other Black female candidates received no support from the Democratic Party. Indeed, the party’s establishment backed Pressley’s primary opponent, 10-term incumbent Rep. Michael E. Capuano. Despite trailing in the polls leading up to the September primary, Pressley won 58.9 percent of the vote to his 41.1 percent.
Pressley, who was a Boston city council member, 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.
She connected with struggling working-class families by promoting those progressive issues, she told NewsOne.
At the gathering Tuesday in the nation’s capital, Pressley told her audience that she discovered a “mandate for hope” while running her own campaign and supporting the campaign of other insurgent candidates.
She urged party leaders to take careful note as they navigate a course for the 2020 elections.