|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Massachusetts's 7th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Mike Capuano|
|Member of the Boston City Council|
January 4, 2010 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Sam Yoon|
Michael F. Flaherty
|Succeeded by||Althea Garrison|
Ayanna Soyini Pressley
February 3, 1974
Chicago, Illinois U.S.
Ayanna Soyini Pressley (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, having defeated incumbent Mike Capuano in the primary election and run 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.
Early life and education
Pressley was born in Chicago, Illinois, to mother, Sandra Pressley (née Echols), 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, and father, Martin Pressley, who struggled with addiction and incarceration throughout Pressley's childhood, but eventually became a college professor. The marriage ended in divorce.
Pressley grew up on the north side of Chicago and went to the Francis W. Parker School. 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.
Her mother later moved to Brooklyn, where she worked as an executive assistant, and later remarried. When Pressley was elected to the Boston City Council, her mother would often attend the public meetings, wearing a hat that said "Mama Pressley."
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. Pressley has not earned a college degree.
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. The work included assisting constituents with Social Security claims and working with senior citizens and veterans and people with disabilities. Pressley went on to become Kennedy's scheduler, then worked as constituency director, before becoming the political director and senior aide for Senator Kerry.
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. 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.
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.
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. Pressley topped the ticket again in November 2013 and November 2015, and placed second in November 2017.
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. 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.
Pressley was endorsed by The Boston Globe and locals of the hotel workers and the electrical worker unions, Grassroots movements including Democracy for America, Brand New Congress and the Justice Democrats supported Pressley. She received the endorsements of former Massachusetts Democratic Party chair John E. Walsh, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, former Newton mayor Setti Warren and Boston city councilor Michelle Wu. 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. 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.
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."
In the September 4, 2018, Democratic primary election, Pressley defeated Capuano by a margin of 59% to 41%. The primary victory was a surprise, as the last poll before the election showed Capuano with a significant lead, 48% to 35%. Part of the reason the polls may have been inaccurate is 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. With no Republican on the ballot for the general election, Pressley took the seat unopposed. However, the 7th 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.
Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress. With the November election victory of Jahana Hayes in Connecticut's 5th congressional district, they are the first women of color to be elected to Congress from New England.
- 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." She aspires to impeach the President. Pressley supports the "take a knee" practice, frequently condemned by Trump, that has been used to bring attention to police brutality toward black men.
- Health care: Pressley supports Medicare-for-All.
- 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.
- 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."
Honors and awards
- 2012: Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership, Class of 2012
- 2012: Truman National Security Project Partner
- 2014: Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, 10 Outstanding Young Leaders
- 2014: Victim Rights Law Center, Leadership Award
- 2015: Boston magazine, 50 Most Powerful People
- 2015: EMILY's List, Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award
- 2016: The New York Times, 14 Young Democrats to Watch
- 2018: Boston magazine, 100 Most Influential People in Boston, #20
Boston City Council election results
|2009 candidates||Preliminary election||General election|
|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%|
|Hiep Quoc Nguyen||7,691||3.95%|
|Sean H. Ryan||6,665||3.43%|
|2011 candidates||General election|
|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%|
|Sean H. Ryan||7,376||4.21%|
|2013 candidates||Preliminary election||General election|
|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%|
|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%|
|2015 candidates||General election|
|Michael F. Flaherty||26,473||20.16%|
|Annissa Essaibi George||23,447||17.86%|
|Stephen J. Murphy||19,546||14.89%|
|Jovan J. Lacet||95||0.07%|
|Andrea Joy Campbell||13||0.01%|
|2017 candidates||General election|
|Michael F. Flaherty||51,673||19.44%|
|Annissa Essaibi George||45,564||17.14%|
|William A. King||8773||3.30%|
- List of African-American United States Representatives
- Women in the United States House of Representatives
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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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ayanna Pressley.|
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Ayanna Pressley on Twitter
- Ayanna Pressley at City of Boston
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority