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Ayanna Soyini Pressley (born February 3, 1974) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts's 7th congressional district since 2019. Her district, which was once represented by John F. Kennedy and Tip O'Neill, includes the northern three-fourths of Boston, most of Cambridge, parts of Milton, as well as all of Chelsea, Everett, Randolph and Somerville.[1]

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
for the at-large district
In office
January 4, 2010 – January 3, 2019
Preceded bySam Yoon
Succeeded byAlthea Garrison
Personal details
Born
Ayanna Soyini Pressley

(1974-02-03) February 3, 1974 (age 45)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Conan Harris
Children1
WebsiteHouse website

A member of the Democratic Party, Pressley defeated ten-term incumbent Mike Capuano in the primary election and ran unopposed in the general election. She was previously elected as an at-large member of the Boston City Council in 2010. Pressley was the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council.

She is the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.[2][3]

Early life and educationEdit

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 Terrell, who struggled with addiction and was incarcerated throughout Pressley's childhood,[7] but eventually earned multiple degrees and taught at the college level.[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 careerEdit

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.

Boston City CouncilEdit

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]

According to Erin O’Brien, a political science professor at University of Massachusetts Boston, during Pressley's time on the City Council, she did not have the reputation for being controversial or as an outsider because, as a woman of color, she did not want to lose her seat.[13]

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.[14] Pressley topped the ticket again in November 2013 and November 2015, and placed second in November 2017.[15][16][17]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

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.[18] 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.[19]

Pressley was endorsed by The Boston Globe[20] and local chapter of the hotel and electrical worker union,[21] Grassroots movements including Democracy for America, Brand New Congress and the Justice Democrats supported Pressley.[22] She received the endorsements of former Massachusetts Democratic Party chair John E. Walsh,[23] Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey,[7] former Newton mayor Setti Warren[24] and Boston city councilor Michelle Wu.[25] 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.[26][27] 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.[28]

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."[29]

In the September 4, 2018, Democratic primary election, Pressley defeated Capuano by a margin of 59% to 41%.[30] The primary victory was a surprise,[31] as the last poll before the election showed Capuano with a significant lead, 48% to 35%.[32] Part of the reason the polls may have been inaccurate was a surge in the number of primary voters. According to Boston NPR station WBUR, 24 percent of primary voters in the 7th District primary had not voted in the five previous primaries. The percentage of new voters included a disproportionate number of Hispanic and Asian voters.[33] She won the general election unopposed.[34] However, the 7th is so heavily Democratic that 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 during Capuano's first run for it 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.

TenureEdit

Pressley is the first African American woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress.[35] With the November election victory of Jahana Hayes in Connecticut's 5th congressional district,[36] they are the first women of color to be elected to Congress from New England.[37][38]

Pressley is a member of the informal group known as "The Squad", whose members form a unified front to push for progressive changes such as the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. The other members of "The Squad" are Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) [39].

In an interview with The Boston Globe in July 2019, Pressley said her office has received death threats after president Trump's tweets of July 14, 2019 and in general since her election.[40]

In May 2019, Pressley gave the commencement address to the graduates of University of Massachusetts Boston, saying they are "President Trump’s worst nightmare." In her speech she said, "Represented here today are dreamers and doers, immigrants, people of every race identity, every gender identity and sexuality, sisters rocking Senegalese twists and hijabs."[41]

On September 17, 2019, Pressley filed a resolution that calls for the House Judiciary Committee to launch impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.[42]

Committee assignmentsEdit

Caucus membershipsEdit

Political positionsEdit

  • 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."[45] She aspires to impeach President Trump.[46]
  • Pressley supports the "take a knee" protests, which have been used to bring attention to police brutality towards black men.[47]
  • Health care: Pressley supports Medicare-for-All.[48]
  • 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.[49] In June 2019, Pressley was one of four Democratic representatives to vote against the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, a $4.5 billion border funding bill that required Customs and Border Protection enact health standards for individuals in custody such as forming standards for individuals for "medical emergencies; nutrition, hygiene, and facilities; and personnel training."[50][51]
  • 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."[52]
  • 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."[53] 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."[54]
  • In May 2019, Pressley and Senator Cory Booker introduced the Healthy MOMMIES Act, legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage in an attempt to provide comprehensive prenatal, labor and postpartum care with an extension of the Medicaid pregnancy pathway from 60 days to a full year following birth for the purpose of assuring new mothers have access to services unrelated to pregnancy. The bill also directed Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program's Payment and Access Commission report its data regarding doula care coverage under state Medicaid programs and subsequently develop strategies aimed at improving access to doula care. Pressley said the bill would provide "a community-based, holistic approach to maternal care that recognizes current disparities in healthcare and critical environmental factors impacting communities."[55]
  • On July 23, 2019, Pressley voted in favor of H. Res. 246 - 116th Congress, a House Resolution introduced by Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. The resolution passed 398-17.[56]

Honors and awardsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Pressley lives in Dorchester, Massachusetts with her husband, Conan Harris,[60] and her stepdaughter.[2] Pressley rarely discusses her religious beliefs but has mentioned that she is a "woman of faith" who "grew up in the church".[61] Pressley does not drive an automobile and has never learned how to drive.[62]

Pressley has been public about being a child survivor of sexual abuse.[63] She was also reportedly sexually assaulted while a student at Boston University.[64]

In January 2019, Pressley's husband, Conan Harris, resigned from his position as a senior public safety adviser at Boston City Hall to form his own consulting firm, Conan Harris & Associates.[65]

Electoral historyEdit

Democratic primary results
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ayanna Pressley 59,815 58.6
Democratic Mike Capuano (incumbent) 42,252 41.4
Total votes 102,067 100
Massachusetts' 7th congressional district, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ayanna Pressley 216,557 98.2
n/a Write-ins 3,852 1.8
Total votes 220,409 100.0
Democratic hold

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Here's what Ayanna Pressley's first week in Washington looked like Boston.com
  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". Boston.com. AP. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  4. ^ "Meet Ayana Pressley, Serving the 7th District of Massachusetts". house.gov. US House of Representatives. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  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. ^ Krantz, Laura (July 16, 2019). "acing their toughest challenge, members of 'the Squad' turned to Pressley for her 'positive, loving tone'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  14. ^ "Hard work pays off for Pressley in City Council election". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  15. ^ "City Councilor At Large (Ward and Precinct)" (PDF). State and City election results | Boston.gov. City of Boston. November 5, 2013.
  16. ^ /00:00Playing Live (November 6, 2013). "Women Top Boston At-Large City Councilor Race | WBUR News". Wbur.org. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  17. ^ Globe, The Boston. "Boston election results 2017 - Boston city council results - The Boston Globe".
  18. ^ Miller, Joshua (January 30, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley to challenge Michael Capuano in primary for Congress". The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ Herndon, Astead W. (May 19, 2018). "John Lewis and Other Black Leaders Spurn Black Challenger in Boston". The New York Times.
  20. ^ "Endorsement: Democrats should choose Ayanna Pressley for the Seventh District". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  21. ^ "Political Endorsements | East Boston Times-Free Press". Eastietimes.com. April 21, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  22. ^ Heuser, Stephen (February 11, 2018). "Progressives storm Democratic primaries". Politico. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  23. ^ "Ex-Mass. Democratic Party chairman John Walsh endorses Ayanna Pressley for Congress". Boston Herald. May 26, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  24. ^ McDonald, Danny (February 16, 2018). "Setti Warren endorses Ayanna Pressley for Congress". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  25. ^ "Ayanna Pressley for Congress Holds Endorsement Event with Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu". The Boston Sun. July 13, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Katharine Q. Seelye (September 3, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley Upsets Capuano in Massachusetts House Race". The New York Times.
  30. ^ "Capuano concedes to Pressley in congressional race - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  31. ^ Michael Levenson (September 4, 2018). "'Are you ready to bring change to Washington?' Pressley stuns Capuano on historic night". The Boston Globe.
  32. ^ Fred Thys (August 2, 2018). "WBUR Poll: Capuano Maintains 13-Point Lead Over Pressley". WBUR.
  33. ^ Maeve Duggan (January 4, 2019). "24 Percent Of 7th District Primary Voters Had Not Voted In Previous 5 Primaries".
  34. ^ "Massachusetts Election Results". The New York Times. November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ Altimari, Daniela; Lurye, Rebecca (November 6, 2018). "Jahana Hayes Wins, Becomes 1st Black Woman From Connecticut In Congress". Hartford Courant. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ "Women of Color in Congress". History, Art, & Archives. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  39. ^ Epstein, Kayla (January 16, 2019). "For Ayanna Pressley, the beauty of unexpected wins led to Congress and a historic office". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  40. ^ Krantz, Laura (July 17, 2019). "Ayanna Pressley wants to get back to the issues, although ignoring the president isn't easy". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 18, 2019. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  41. ^ Kempe, Ysabelle (May 31, 2019). "Pressley calls UMass Boston grads 'President Trump's worst nightmare'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  42. ^ Zhou, Li (September 17, 2019). "Ayanna Pressley just filed an impeachment resolution against Brett Kavanaugh in the House". Vox (website). Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  43. ^ "Congressional Black Caucus". cbc.house.gov. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  44. ^ "Congressional Progressive Caucus : Caucus Members". cpc-grijalva.house.gov. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ Markos, Mary (September 7, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley puts Donald Trump impeachment on to-do list". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  47. ^ Bradner, Eric. "Democrats measure their desire for change in JFK's old district". CNN. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  48. ^ Hess, Abigail (September 5, 2018). "Meet Ayanna Pressley, the Democrat who could become Massachusetts' first black Congresswoman". CNBC. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  49. ^ Levenson, Michael (June 25, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley endorses defunding ICE". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  50. ^ "House passes $4.5B border funding bill". The Hill. June 25, 2019.
  51. ^ "The four House Democrats who voted against the border funding bill". The Hill. June 25, 2019.
  52. ^ Way, Katie. "What Happens When Political Candidates Say #MeToo". The Nation. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  53. ^ Ruiz-Grossman, Sarah (March 6, 2019). "Rep. Ayanna Pressley Wants To Lower The Voting Age To 16". HuffPost. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  54. ^ Frazin, Rachel (April 9, 2019). "Dems unveil anti-workplace harassment bill". The Hill.
  55. ^ "Booker, Ayanna Pressley introduce bill taking aim at black maternal death rates". The Hill. May 9, 2019.
  56. ^ Schneider, Bradley Scott (July 23, 2019). "H.Res.246 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel". www.congress.gov. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  57. ^ "EMILY's List To Present 'Rising Star' Award To Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley". Huffington Post. February 19, 2015.
  58. ^ 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.
  59. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People in Boston". Boston Magazine. April 24, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  60. ^ 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.
  61. ^ Chris Hayes: "That’s one of the best metaphors I’ve heard in this campaign...", Daily Kos, February 1, 2016
  62. ^ Globe, Staff (January 31, 2018). "7 things about Ayanna Pressley". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  63. ^ Toness, Bianca Vázquez (February 15, 2011). "Pressley Is A Compelling, But Vulnerable Councilor". WBUR-FM.
  64. ^ "TheGrio's 100: Ayanna Pressley, first black woman elected to Boston City Council overcomes life full of obstacles". The Grio. January 30, 2012.
  65. ^ Stout, Matt (February 16, 2019). "Ayanna Pressley's husband left City Hall to launch consulting firm just before she entered Congress". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 10, 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit