On Tuesday night, Ayanna Pressley became the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. She ran uncontested in the general election.
Pressley unseated 20-year Democratic incumbent Mike Capuano in September’s Democratic primary, all but cementing her seat in the general election of Massachusett’s bright blue 7th Congressional District. Calling her candidacy “disruptive,” Pressley told Jezebel in an August interview that she and Capuano “will likely vote the same way. But we will lead differently.” The surprising defeat drew comparisons between Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old democratic socialist who ousted Bronx incumbent Joe Crowley, a senior Democratic congressman who had been poised to become the next Speaker of the House.
Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, however, Pressley, 44, is not a newcomer to politics, previously serving as a congressional aide for 16 years before being elected to Boston’s City Council. As a councilmember, Pressley devoted herself to issues impacting low-income communities and women and girls. While the 7th congressional district, which includes parts of Boston and Cambridge, is staunchly progressive, it is also plagued by racial inequality. The area has more residents of color, but registered voters are disproportionately white, and white people, on average, earn more than people of color in Boston.
“I am aware that if I win, there is some history-making element to this, but that is not the motivation for my run,” Pressley told Jezebel in August. She described the need for “bold, activist leadership” that “will be a coalition and a movement builder” against the Trump administration.
“Honestly today when I was looking at my name for the second time I began to connect that I would be a member of Congress,” Pressley told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. “It sort of started sinking in for me a little bit.”