Huge Upset As Pressley Beats Capuano
By SEAN COTTER, MARY MARKOS and JOE BATTENFELD
BOSTON -- Ayanna Pressley defeated 20-year-incumbent Michael Capuano last night, in an headline-grabbing assault on the Democratic establishment.
Pressley, 44, will become the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts. She is not facing a Republican in November.
Capuano conceded shortly after 9 p.m. after it was clear he didn’t have the votes to keep the seat he’s held for two decades.
Pressley, a Boston City councilor, was heavily outspent and making her first run for Congress but that made little difference as she rode a wave of momentum to victory.
The race was viewed as another referendum on politics as usual, with the younger and more energetic Pressley defeating a powerful incumbent, the latest in a line of similar upsets across the country.
“The district wanted a lot of change,′ Capuano said as he conceded. “So be it -- this is the way life goes. Ayanna will make a great congresswoman.”
Pressley went to visit her mother’s grave in Dorchester yesterday.
“Everyone knows she gave me my roots to my wings,” Pressley told the Herald. “There are many reasons in our lives that we felt invisible and voiceless. But on election day my mother made sure I knew that we were powerful, and I believe that and I felt that. And when I would walk into that voting booth with her and she would pull that curtain, I would stand just a little bit taller.”
Pressley spent her day traveling around the district, which includes parts of Boston, Somerville and Cambridge, campaigning on her slogan, “Change can’t wait.”
Some saw the race as mirroring that of the New York race in which 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took down longtime U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, a high-ranking Democrat, two months ago.
Commentators and the candidates themselves have drawn parallels between Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez, seeing both younger women of color running against older white male establishment Democrats.
Voter Kate Wright of Charlestown told the Herald outside of the Clarence R. Edwards Middle School polling place that she was happy to cast a ballot for Pressley.
“I’m excited about the wave of young women getting involved,” Wright said, saying she hopes to see the number of women in Congress reach the proportion
This race differed from Ocasio-Cortez’s, though, because it’s not a case of a hyper-liberal political outsider setting her sights on taking down a moderate. The 66-year-old Capuano, representing one of the nation’s most left-leaning districts, is a member of the Progressive Caucus and for all of his 20 years in Congress has been a reliable vote for the left. Capuano received the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus over his black opponent.
Meanwhile, Pressley, 44, has more ties to the establishment than her fellow Boston University grad Ocasio-Cortez did, as Pressley has been city councilor for nearly a decade after working for well-known mainstream Democrats such as former U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry and Capuano’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II.
Tom and Dorothy Metivier both had just pulled the lever for Capuano before they talked to the Herald outside Somerville High School, a building right next to the city hall Capuano ran throughout the 1990s.
“They’re pretty much the same on the issues,” Tom Metivier said of the candidates. So they stuck with the known entity.
“Mike’s been pretty good to the city -- he always answers constituents,” Dorothy Metivier said.
Emma, a Somerville resident who didn’t give her last name, said her household decided to split their votes between the two.
“We both felt very mixed between the two,” she said, adding that the vote was less between about how each would vote and more the lens through which each candidate looks at the issues based on their respective backgrounds.