BOSTON (AP) — The black Boston city councilor whose upset primary win over a 10-term congressman stunned Massachusetts’ political establishment called her victory “surreal” Wednesday and said the wave of inclusiveness sweeping the nation is the best way to counter President Donald Trump.
Ayanna Pressley told cheering supporters she’s thrilled and humbled by her victory over longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a fellow liberal Democrat. Pressley will run unopposed in November, giving her a virtual lock on the seat — the first in Congress that will be held by a black woman from Massachusetts.
Pressley, 44, said it was “a surreal, full circle moment.” She said she ran to represent those traditionally without a voice in politics who deserve to live in communities that are safe and have good schools.
“When I have said that the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, driving and informing the policy-making, that was never about me, that was about the residents of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional district,” she said Wednesday during a party unity event.
She also got in a dig at Trump, saying the only way to combat “the hate coming out of this White House” is with an inclusive movement.
“This is our opportunity to build it,” she said. “We are at a crossroads. This can be our darkest hour or it can be our finest. And I am betting on it being our finest.”
Pressley cruised to victory Tuesday in a district once served by Tip O’Neill and John F. Kennedy. Minorities now constitute a majority of the district’s population.
Pressley’s defeat of a 10-term incumbent underscores the shift underway in a Democratic Party whose base is seeking younger, more diverse candidates who embrace liberal policies. Her victory comes just two months after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez similarly defeated a top House leader in a primary for a New York congressional seat.
Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday night tweeted a selfie of both women together and wrote, “In June, I won my primary. Tonight, she won hers. Here’s to November.” A Pressley campaign insider, meanwhile, posted a video showing the candidate the moment she learned she’d won.
“Change is coming, and the future belongs to all of us,” Pressley told wildly cheering supporters Tuesday night.
A subdued Capuano told supporters he did everything he could to win re-election.
“Apparently the district just is very upset with lots of things that are going on. I don’t blame them. I’m just as upset as they are, but so be it. This is the way life goes,” he said.
The race between Capuano and Pressley was perhaps the most closely watched contest in Massachusetts, especially since Pressley drew comparisons to Ocasio-Cortez.
Capuano was considered one of the most liberal members of the Massachusetts delegation, and Pressley had acknowledged she had few major policy quarrels with him.
Massachusetts’ last Democratic primary upset came in 2014, when Seth Moulton defeated Rep. John Tierney in the state’s 6th Congressional District.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sailed through her primary unopposed. She’ll face Geoff Diehl, a state representative who served as co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state and defeated two other Republicans for his party’s nomination.
Another veteran congressman, Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, won a spirited primary showdown with Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a black attorney from Springfield who had hoped to become the first Muslim to serve in Congress from Massachusetts. Neal, the dean of the state’s House delegation, first was elected in 1989.
Two other Democratic House incumbents, William Keating and Joe Kennedy, fended off primary challenges. Kennedy, grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address this year.
Another Democrat, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, is retiring at the end of this term, and that open seat touched off a political scramble with 10 candidates on the Democratic primary ballot. That race remained too close to call Wednesday.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker won his party’s nomination for a second term, defeating Scott Lively, a conservative minister and staunch supporter of Trump who frequently called Baker — a frequent critic of the president — a RINO, or Republican in Name Only.
Baker, a moderate who has been popular with voters in what is perceived as one of the nation’s bluest states, will face Democrat Jay Gonzalez, who served as secretary of administration and finance under Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, in November.
“At a time when our country is having trouble finding common ground on so many issues, we in Massachusetts are the exception,” Baker told supporters. “We believe that people in public life can, and should, debate the issues respectfully and seek common ground whenever possible.”
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