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Ayanna Pressley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ayanna Pressley
Ayanna Pressley Portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded byMike Capuano
Member of the Boston City Council
In office
January 4, 2010 – January 3, 2019
Preceded bySam Yoon
Michael F. Flaherty
Succeeded byAlthea Garrison
Personal details
Ayanna Soyini Pressley

(1974-02-03) February 3, 1974 (age 45)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Conan Harris
EducationBoston University
WebsiteHouse website

Ayanna Soyini Pressley[1] (born February 3, 1974) is an American politician who is the member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district. The district, which was once represented by John F. Kennedy and Tip O'Neill, includes the northern three-fourths of Boston, most of Cambridge, and all of Chelsea and Somerville. She is a Democrat.

She defeated ten-term incumbent Mike Capuano in the primary election and ran unopposed in the November 2018 general election. Pressley served as an at-large member of the Boston City Council. Pressley was the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council, and the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.[2][3]

Early life and education

Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio [4] but raised in Chicago, Illinois, the only child of mother Sandra Pressley (née Echols),[5] who worked multiple jobs to support the family and also worked as a community organizer for the Chicago Urban League advocating for tenant's rights,[6] and father Martin Pressley, who struggled with addiction and incarceration throughout Pressley's childhood,[7] but eventually became a college professor.[8] The marriage ended in divorce.[5]

Pressley grew up on the north side of Chicago[8] and attended the Francis W. Parker School.[9] While at the prestigious private school, she was a cheerleader, did modeling and voice-over work, appeared in Planned Parenthood bus advertisements, and was a competitive debater. During her senior year of high school she was voted the "most likely to be mayor of Chicago" and was the commencement speaker for her class.[10]

Her mother later moved to Brooklyn, where she worked as an executive assistant, and later remarried.[5] When Pressley was elected to the Boston City Council, her mother would often attend the public meetings, wearing a hat that said "Mama Pressley."[5]

From 1992 to 1994, Pressley attended the College of General Studies at Boston University, but left school to take a full-time job at the Boston Marriott Copley Place to support her mother, who had lost her job. She took further courses at Boston University Metropolitan College, also known as MET.[6] [10]

Earlier political career

After leaving Boston University, Pressley worked as a district representative for United States Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, for whom she had interned during college.[6] The work included assisting constituents with Social Security claims and working with senior citizens and veterans and people with disabilities. Pressley became Kennedy's scheduler, then worked as constituency director, before becoming the political director and senior aide for Senator Kerry.[8]

During 2009, Pressley served as United States Senator John Kerry's (D-Mass.) political director, responsible for managing his relationships with elected officials at the city, state and federal level and with various community leaders.

Boston City Council

Pressley was first elected to the Boston City Council in November 2009. Upon being sworn in on January 4, 2010, she was the first woman of color to serve in the 100-year history of the Boston City Council.[2][11] The only woman in a field of 15 candidates, Pressley earned one of four at-large spots on the city's 13-member council with nearly 42,000 votes.[2]

In her first year as a City Councilor, Pressley formed the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities, which addresses issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking. She worked collaboratively with community members to develop a comprehensive sexual education and health curriculum and update the expectant and parenting student policy. Both were successfully implemented into Boston Public Schools.[12]

In the council election of November 2011, Pressley faced a competitive re-election, and finished first among at-large candidates with 37,000 votes. She won 13 of the city's 22 wards and finished second in three others. Pressley won Boston's communities of color and many progressive neighborhoods. In all, Pressley placed first in more than half of Boston's 22 wards.[13] Pressley topped the ticket again in November 2013 and November 2015, and placed second in November 2017.[14][15][16]

U.S. House of Representatives

In January 2018, Pressley announced her challenge to incumbent United States Representative Michael Capuano in the 2018 Democratic primary nomination for the Massachusetts's 7th congressional district.[17] No Republican even filed, meaning that whoever won the primary would be all but assured of victory in November.

The 7th district is traditionally Democratic and is the state's only district where the majority of residents are not white. Capuano received endorsements from civil rights veteran and U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia as well as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters of California.[18]

Pressley was endorsed by The Boston Globe[19] and locals of the hotel workers and the electrical worker unions,[20] Grassroots movements including Democracy for America, Brand New Congress and the Justice Democrats supported Pressley.[21] She received the endorsements of former Massachusetts Democratic Party chair John E. Walsh,[22] Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey,[7] former Newton mayor Setti Warren[23] and Boston city councilor Michelle Wu.[24] The nomination win in New York's 14th congressional district of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over long-time representative Joseph Crowley increased the visibility of Pressley's campaign.[25][26] While some political commentators distinguished Pressley's campaign from that of Ocasio-Cortez in that Capuano was understood to have one of the most progressive records in Congress, the incumbents both represented districts in which the majority of voters are not white.[27]

Like Capuano, Pressley campaigned as a staunch progressive; indeed, she admitted that her voting record would likely be almost identical to that of Capuano. However, Pressley contended that a reliably liberal voting record was not enough to meet the needs of a district whose demographics and character had changed over the years. She also claimed that the district needed to be represented by someone who would take a more aggressive role in opposing the presidency of Donald Trump. She campaigned with the slogan "change can't wait", and promised that she would bring "activist leadership."[28]

In the September 4, 2018, Democratic primary election, Pressley defeated Capuano by a margin of 59% to 41%.[29] The primary victory was a surprise,[30] as the last poll before the election showed Capuano with a significant lead, 48% to 35%.[31] Part of the reason the polls may have been inaccurate was a surge in the number of primary voters. 24% of District 7 voters in the 2018 primary had not voted in the five previous primaries, and that percentage was disproportionately of Hispanic and Asian ethnicities.[32] The 7th district is so heavily Democratic that Pressley had effectively assured herself of a seat in Congress with her primary win; any Republican challenger would have faced nearly impossible odds in any event. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+34, the 7th is by far the most Democratic district in New England. Indeed, the Republicans last put up a challenger in this district in 1998, when it was numbered as the 8th District. The GOP has only nominated a candidate in this district five times since longtime Speaker Tip O'Neill retired in 1986. Thus, Pressley won the 7th district seat unopposed.[33]


Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress.[34] With the November election victory of Jahana Hayes in Connecticut's 5th congressional district,[35] they are the first women of color to be elected to Congress from New England.[36][37]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

  • President Trump: During her victory speech following the September primary election, Pressley called out President Donald Trump, claiming he is "a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man."[40] She aspires to impeach President Trump.[41] Pressley supports the "take a knee" protests, frequently condemned by Trump, which have been used to bring attention to police brutality towards black men.[42]
  • Health care: Pressley supports Medicare-for-All.[43]
  • Immigration: In June 2018, Pressley called for the defunding of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), saying the law enforcement agency poses an "existential threat" to immigrant communities.[44]
  • Sexual violence: As a survivor of sexual violence herself, Pressley states that she would make ending sexual violence a major priority of her work in Congress. Speaking in an article that appeared in The Nation she said, "I have dedicated my life to combating trauma in all forms—domestic, sexual, gun violence—and so the opportunity to potentially be in Congress at a moment of elevated consciousness to codify activism in policy change is certainly an exciting prospect."[45]
  • On March 5 2019, Pressley proposed to lower the voting age from 18 years old to 16 in an amendment she introduced in Congress. This was her first amendment on the House floor, and was intended to amend the For the People Act of 2019. She said during her speech, "Young people are the forefront at some of our most existential crises. The time has come. Our young people deserve to have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote."[46] Her amendment was defeated 305-126-2, with a slight majority of the Democrats and 1 Republican voting in favor.
  • On April 9 2019, Pressley was one of four House Democrats to introduce the Be HEARD Act, legislation intended to abolish the tipped minimum wage along with ending mandatory arbitration and pre-employment nondisclosure agreements. The bill would also give workers additional time to report harassment and was said by co-sponsor Patty Murray to come at a time when too many workers are "still silenced by mandatory disclosure agreements that prevent them from discussing sexual harassment and longstanding practices like the tipped wages that keep workers in certain industries especially vulnerable."[47]

Honors and awards

Personal life

Pressley lives in Dorchester with her husband, Conan Harris,[51] and her stepdaughter.[2] Pressley does not drive an automobile and has never learned how to drive.[52]

Pressley has been public about being a child survivor of sexual abuse.[53][not in citation given] She was also sexually assaulted while a student at Boston University.[54]

Electoral history

Boston City Council election results

2009 candidates Preliminary election[55] General election[56]
Votes % Votes %
John R. Connolly 35,182 18.08% 51,362 18.35%
Stephen J. Murphy 30,365 15.61% 51,008 18.22%
Felix G. Arroyo 25,859 13.29% 45,144 16.13%
Ayanna Pressley 16,866 8.67% 41,879 14.96%
Tito Jackson 12,535 6.44% 30,203 10.79%
Andrew Kenneally 12,653 6.50% 24,249 8.66%
Tomás González 10,122 5.20% 18,310 6.54%
Doug Bennett 10,529 5.41% 16,842 6.02%
Ego Ezedi 9,260 4.76%
Hiep Quoc Nguyen 7,691 3.95%
Sean H. Ryan 6,665 3.43%
Jean-Claude Sanon 5,386 2.77%
Robert Fortes 5,071 2.61%
Bill Trabucco 3,132 1.61%
Scotland Willis 2,639 1.36%
2011 candidates General election[57]
Votes %
Ayanna Pressley 37,532 21.42%
Felix G. Arroyo 35,483 20.25%
John R. Connolly 32,827 18.74%
Stephen J. Murphy 26,730 15.26%
Michael F. Flaherty 25,805 14.73%
Will Dorcena 8,739 4.99%
Sean H. Ryan 7,376 4.21%
2013 candidates Preliminary election[58] General election[59]
Votes % Votes %
Ayanna Pressley 42,915 16.71% 60,799 18.30%
Michelle Wu 29,384 11.44% 59,741 17.98%
Michael F. Flaherty 39,904 15.54% 55,104 16.59%
Stephen J. Murphy 31,728 12.35% 44,993 13.54%
Annissa Essaibi George 12,244 4.77% 30,538 9.19%
Jeffrey Michael Ross 13,939 5.43% 28,879 8.69%
Martin J. Keogh 15,743 6.13% 26,500 7.98%
Jack F. Kelly III 11,909 4.64% 23,967 7.22%
Catherine M. O'Neill 10,952 4.26%  
Althea Garrison 10,268 4.00%  
Ramon Soto 9928 3.87%  
Philip Arthur Frattaroli 5832 2.27%  
Gareth R. Saunders 5363 2.09%  
Christopher J. Conroy 3433 1.34%  
Seamus M. Whelan 3118 1.21%  
Francisco L. White 2745 1.07%  
Douglas D. Wohn 2382 0.93%  
Frank John Addivinola Jr. 2240 0.87%  
Keith B. Kenyon 1950 0.76%  
Jamarhl Crawford 21dagger 0.01%  
all others 832 0.32% 1658 0.50%
2015 candidates General election[60]
Votes %
Ayanna Pressley 31,783 24.21%
Michelle Wu 28,908 22.02%
Michael F. Flaherty 26,473 20.16%
Annissa Essaibi George 23,447 17.86%
Stephen J. Murphy 19,546 14.89%
Jovan J. Lacet 95dagger 0.07%
Charles Yancey 39dagger 0.03%
Jean-Claude Sanon 25dagger 0.02%
Andrea Joy Campbell 13dagger 0.01%
all others 959 0.73%
2017 candidates General election[61]
Votes %
Michelle Wu 65,040 24.47%
Ayanna Pressley 57,520 21.64%
Michael F. Flaherty 51,673 19.44%
Annissa Essaibi George 45,564 17.14%
Althea Garrison 18,253 6.87%
Domingos Darosa 11,647 4.38%
William A. King 8773 3.30%
Pat Payaso 6124 2.30%
all others 1230 0.46%

dagger write-in votes

See also


  1. ^ Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Here's what Ayanna Pressley's first week in Washington looked like
  2. ^ a b c d "City Council: Ayanna Pressley, At-Large". City of Boston. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  3. ^ Kole, William J. (November 6, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley is officially Massachusetts' first black congresswoman". AP. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  4. ^ "Meet Ayana Pressley, Serving the 7th District of Massachusetts." [1]
  5. ^ a b c d Willis, Laurie D. (July 14, 2011). "Sandra Pressley, 63; was mother of city councilor". The Boston Globe.
  6. ^ a b c "Ayanna Pressley, CGS, will be the first African-American woman ever and the first black candidate in nearly 20 years to serve as a citywide councilor in Boston". Boston University College of General Studies. November 4, 2009. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Ebbert, Stephanie (September 6, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley is hailed as a sign of the times". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Buccini, Cynthia K. (August 26, 2009). "Door to Door, Block by Block". BU Today. Boston University.
  9. ^ Katharine Q. Seelye, Astead W. Herndon: Ayanna Pressley Seeks Her Political Moment in a Changing Boston. In: The New York Times, September 1, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Levenson, Michael; Ebbert, Stephanie (September 8, 2018). "The life and rise of Ayanna Pressley". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "In Inaugural Address, Menino Vows Fresh Look At Old Problems". WBUR News. January 4, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  12. ^ Ally Boguhn (August 31, 2018). "'Activism Is No Longer an Option': Could Ayanna Pressley Be the Next Progressive Upset?". ReWire. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  13. ^ "Hard work pays off for Pressley in City Council election". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  14. ^ "City Councilor At Large (Ward and Precinct)" (PDF). State and City election results | City of Boston. November 5, 2013.
  15. ^ /00:00Playing Live (November 6, 2013). "Women Top Boston At-Large City Councilor Race | WBUR News". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  16. ^ Globe, The Boston. "Boston election results 2017 - Boston city council results - The Boston Globe".
  17. ^ Miller, Joshua (January 30, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley to challenge Michael Capuano in primary for Congress". The Boston Globe.
  18. ^ Herndon, Astead W. (May 19, 2018). "John Lewis and Other Black Leaders Spurn Black Challenger in Boston". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Endorsement: Democrats should choose Ayanna Pressley for the Seventh District". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  20. ^ "Political Endorsements | East Boston Times-Free Press". April 21, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  21. ^ Heuser, Stephen (February 11, 2018). "Progressives storm Democratic primaries". Politico. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  22. ^ "Ex-Mass. Democratic Party chairman John Walsh endorses Ayanna Pressley for Congress". Boston Herald. May 26, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  23. ^ McDonald, Danny (February 16, 2018). "Setti Warren endorses Ayanna Pressley for Congress". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  24. ^ "Ayanna Pressley for Congress Holds Endorsement Event with Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu". The Boston Sun. July 13, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  25. ^ Williams, Vanessa (June 28, 2018). "After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset in N.Y., can Ayanna Pressley pull off a repeat in Massachusetts?". The Washington Post.
  26. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q.; Herndon, Astead W. (June 28, 2018). "Will a Shocker in New York Have a Ripple Effect in Massachusetts?". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Fang, Lee (August 18, 2018). "One of the Strongest Progressives in Congress is Facing a Primary Challenger Invoking Identity and Change. Will She Unseat Him?". The Intercept.
  28. ^ Katharine Q. Seelye (September 3, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley Upsets Capuano in Massachusetts House Race". The New York Times.
  29. ^ "Capuano concedes to Pressley in congressional race - The Boston Globe". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  30. ^ Michael Levenson (September 4, 2018). "'Are you ready to bring change to Washington?' Pressley stuns Capuano on historic night". The Boston Globe.
  31. ^ Fred Thys (August 2, 2018). "WBUR Poll: Capuano Maintains 13-Point Lead Over Pressley". WBUR.
  32. ^ Maeve Duggan (January 4, 2019). "24 Percent Of 7th District Primary Voters Had Not Voted In Previous 5 Primaries".
  33. ^ "Massachusetts Election Results". The New York Times. November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  34. ^ Cole, William K. (November 7, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley officially Massachusetts' 1st black congresswoman". The Boston Globe. AP. Retrieved November 7, 2018. Republican Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, who took office in 1967, was the first black politician to be elected by popular vote after the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913.
  35. ^ Altimari, Daniela; Lurye, Rebecca (November 6, 2018). "Jahana Hayes Wins, Becomes 1st Black Woman From Connecticut In Congress". Hartford Courant. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  36. ^ Balingit, Moriah. "She was a teen mother who became teacher of the year. Now, Jahana Hayes wants to become Connecticut's first black Democratic member of Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  37. ^ "Women of Color in Congress". History, Art, & Archives. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  38. ^ "Congressional Black Caucus". Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  39. ^ "Congressional Progressive Caucus : Caucus Members". Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  40. ^ Tempera, Jacqueline (September 5, 2018). "Historic upset as Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley unseats Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District". Mass Live. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  41. ^ Markos, Mary (September 7, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley puts Donald Trump impeachment on to-do list". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  42. ^ Bradner, Eric. "Democrats measure their desire for change in JFK's old district". CNN. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  43. ^ Hess, Abigail (September 5, 2018). "Meet Ayanna Pressley, the Democrat who could become Massachusetts' first black Congresswoman". CNBC. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  44. ^ Levenson, Michael (June 25, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley endorses defunding ICE". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  45. ^ Way, Katie. "What Happens When Political Candidates Say #MeToo". The Nation. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  46. ^ Ruiz-Grossman, Sarah (March 6, 2019). "Rep. Ayanna Pressley Wants To Lower The Voting Age To 16". HuffPost. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  47. ^ Frazin, Rachel (April 9, 2019). "Dems unveil anti-workplace harassment bill". The Hill.
  48. ^ "EMILY's List To Present 'Rising Star' Award To Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley". Huffington Post. February 19, 2015.
  49. ^ Bernstein, David S. (March 6, 2015). "Why Can't EMILY's List Get Millennial Women To Vote? Plus: Ayanna Pressley Walks On Water". WGBH News. Archived from the original on March 8, 2015.
  50. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People in Boston". Boston Magazine. April 24, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  51. ^ Irons, Meghan E. (February 6, 2017). "Her husband works for Walsh. Her political ally is challenging him. What's a city councilor to do?". The Boston Globe.
  52. ^ Globe, Staff (January 31, 2018). "7 things about Ayanna Pressley". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  53. ^ Toness, Bianca Vázquez (February 15, 2011). "Pressley Is A Compelling, But Vulnerable Councilor". WBUR-FM.
  54. ^ "TheGrio's 100: Ayanna Pressley, first black woman elected to Boston City Council overcomes life full of obstacles". The Grio. January 30, 2012.
  55. ^ "Preliminary Municipal Election - City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of City of Boston. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  56. ^ "Municipal Election - City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of City of Boston. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  57. ^ "Municipal Election - City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of City of Boston. Retrieved November 10, 2012.

Further reading

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mike Capuano
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Katie Porter
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Guy Reschenthaler
This page was last edited on 6 May 2019, at 16:45
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