Progressive Defeats Longtime Dem House Incumbent In Boston

Scott Eisen/Getty Images North America

Boston City Council member Ayana Pressley (D) has knocked off 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), becoming the latest progressive insurgent to topple an establishment favorite in a primary this election cycle.

Pressley easily bested Capuano, who conceded not long after polls closed Tuesday evening.

Pressley is the first woman of color ever to serve on Boston’s City Council, and is set to break another barrier, becoming the first woman of color to serve in its congressional delegation.

Her victory marks the latest win for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party this election cycle, and the latest win for a minority and female candidate over an incumbent or establishment favorite, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking win over Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) earlier this summer and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s (D) recent gubernatorial primary upset of former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL).

Her background is more similar to Gillum’s than to Ocasio-Cortez’s: She has a long career in Boston politics. And while national progressives including Ocasio-Cortez rallied to her side, she had some strong local institutional support as well, including an endorsement from the Boston Globe.

Pressley conceded throughout the race that there was little policy daylight between her and Capuano, though she did go further than him by calling for the abolishment of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency. But she made her background a major part of the race, highlighting the importance of boosting diversity in the Democratic Party, talking about her own experience with sexual assault, and regularly calling for more “bold, activist leadership.”

Her campaign refrain: “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.”

Pressley will now represent the seat that in earlier forms was held by John F. Kennedy and Tip O’Neill.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but this is life and this is okay. America is going to be okay,” Capuano said in his concession speech. “Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman and Massachusetts will be well served.”

Republicans didn’t run a candidate in the heavily Democratic Boston-based district, and Pressley is all but guaranteed to join the next Congress.

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