Ayanna Pressley

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Ayanna Pressley
Ayanna Pressley
Member of the Boston City Council
Assumed office
January 2010
Preceded by Sam Yoon
Michael F. Flaherty
Personal details
Born (1974-02-03) February 3, 1974 (age 44)
Chicago, Illinois U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Conan Harris
Children 1
Education Boston University
Website Campaign website

Ayanna S. Pressley (born February 3, 1974) is an American politician serving as an at-large member of the Boston City Council in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the first woman of color elected to the council.[1] Pressley is the 2018 Democratic nominee for Massachusetts's 7th congressional district, having defeated incumbent Michael Capuano in the primary election.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Pressley was born in Chicago, Illinois, to mother, Sandra Pressley (née Echols),[4] 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,[5] and father, Martin Pressley, who struggled with addiction and incarceration throughout Pressley's childhood,[6] but eventually became a college professor.[7] The marriage ended in a divorce.[4] Pressley grew up on the north side of Chicago[7] and went to the Francis W. Parker School.[8] While at the prestigious private school, Pressley was a cheerleader, did modeling and voice-over work, appeared in Planned Parenthood bus advertisements, and 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.[9]

Her mother later moved to Brooklyn, where she worked as an executive assistant, and later remarried.[4] When Pressley was elected to the Boston City Council, her mother would often attend the public meetings, wearing a hat that said "Mama Pressley."[4]

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.[5] Pressley has not earned a college degree.[9]

Earlier career[edit]

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.[5] 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 to Senator Kennedy.[7]

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[edit]

Pressley was first elected to the Boston City Council in November 2009. After being sworn in on January 4, 2010 she became the first woman of color to serve in the 100-year history of the Boston City Council.[1] 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.[1]

In the November 2011 Boston City Council election, Pressley faced a competitive reelection, but 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.[10] Pressley topped the ticket again in November 2013 and November 2015, and placed second in November 2017.[11][12][13]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



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, held on September 4.[2] 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 as well as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters.[14]

Pressley was endorsed by The Boston Globe[15] and locals of the hotel workers and the electrical worker unions,[16] Grassroots movements including Democracy for America, Brand New Congress and the Justice Democrats supported Pressley.[17] She received the endorsements of former Massachusetts Democratic Party chair John E. Walsh,[18] Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey,[6] former Newton mayor Setti Warren[19] and Boston city councilor Michelle Wu.[20] The nomination win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over long-time representative Joseph Crowley increased the visibility of her campaign.[21][22] While some political commentators have distinguished Pressley's campaign from that of Ocasio-Cortez in that Capuano is understood to have among the most progressive records in Congress, they both represent districts in which the majority of voters are not white.[23]

In the September 4, 2018 Democratic primary, Pressley defeated Capuano by a margin of 59%-41%.[3] Since she does not face a Republican challenge, it is assumed that she will will represent her district in the U.S. House of Representatives in November. If elected, she will become the first African-American to serve Massachusetts residents as their representative.[24] Should fellow Democrat Jahana Hayes, the nominee for Connecticut's 5th congressional district, win in November, they would become the first women of color to ever be elected to Congress from New England.[25][26]


President Trump[edit]

During her victory speech, Pressley called out President Donald Trump, claiming he is: "a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man."[27] She aspires to impeach the President.[28] Pressley supports the "take a knee" practice, frequently condemned by Trump, that has been used to bring attention to police brutality toward black men.[29]


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.[30]

Sexual violence[edit]

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."[31]

Honors and awards[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Pressley lives in Dorchester with her husband, Conan Harris,[35] and her stepdaughter.[1] Pressley does not drive an automobile and has never learned how to drive.[36]

Pressley has been public about being a child survivor of sexual abuse.[37] She was also sexually assaulted while a student at Boston University.[38]

Electoral history[edit]

Boston City Council election results[edit]

2009 Candidates Preliminary Election[39] General Election[40]
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[41]
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[42] General Election[43]
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[44]
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[45]
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


  1. ^ a b c d "City Council: Ayanna Pressley, At-Large". City of Boston. Retrieved July 6, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b Miller, Joshua (January 30, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley to challenge Michael Capuano in primary for Congress". The Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ a b "Capuano concedes to Pressley in congressional race - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d Willis, Laurie D. (July 14, 2011). "Sandra Pressley, 63; was mother of city councilor". The Boston Globe. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ a b Ebbert, Stephanie (2018-09-06). "Ayanna Pressley is hailed as a sign of the times". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-09-06. 
  7. ^ a b c Buccini, Cynthia K. (August 26, 2009). "Door to Door, Block by Block". BU Today. Boston University. 
  8. ^ Katharine Q. Seelye, Astead W. Herndon: Ayanna Pressley Seeks Her Political Moment in a Changing Boston. In: The New York Times, 1 September 2018.
  9. ^ a b Levenson, Michael; Ebbert, Stephanie (2018-09-08). "The life and rise of Ayanna Pressley". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-09-11. 
  10. ^ "Hard work pays off for Pressley in City Council election". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ http://www.cityofboston.gov/images_documents/2013%20-%2011-05-13%20-%20City%20Councillor%20at%20Large%20Ward%20%26%20Precinct%20Results_tcm3-41961.pdf
  12. ^ /00:00Playing Live (November 6, 2013). "Women Top Boston At-Large City Councilor Race | WBUR News". Wbur.org. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  13. ^ Globe, The Boston. "Boston election results 2017 - Boston city council results - The Boston Globe". 
  14. ^ Herndon, Astead W. (May 19, 2018). "John Lewis and Other Black Leaders Spurn Black Challenger in Boston". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Endorsement: Democrats should choose Ayanna Pressley for the Seventh District". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  16. ^ "Political Endorsements | East Boston Times-Free Press". Eastietimes.com. April 21, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  17. ^ Heuser, Stephen (February 11, 2018). "Progressives storm Democratic primaries". Politico. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  18. ^ "Ex-Mass. Democratic Party chairman John Walsh endorses Ayanna Pressley for Congress". Boston Herald. May 26, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  19. ^ McDonald, Danny (February 16, 2018). "Setti Warren endorses Ayanna Pressley for Congress". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  20. ^ "Ayanna Pressley for Congress Holds Endorsement Event with Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu". The Boston Sun. July 13, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ Nilsen, Ella. "Ayanna Pressley wins the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District primary in an upset". Vox. Retrieved September 5, 2018. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ "Women of Color in Congress". History, Art, & Archives. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 5 September 2018. 
  27. ^ Tempera, Jacqueline (2018-09-05). "Historic upset as Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley unseats Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District". Mass Live. Retrieved 2018-09-06. 
  28. ^ Markos, Mary (September 7, 2018). "Ayanna Pressley puts Donald Trump impeachment on to-do list". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 8, 2018. 
  29. ^ Bradner, Eric. "Democrats measure their desire for change in JFK's old district". CNN. Retrieved September 9, 2018. 
  30. ^ Levenson, Michael (2018-06-25). "Ayanna Pressley endorses defunding ICE". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-09-05. 
  31. ^ Way, Katie. "What Happens When Political Candidates Say #MeToo". The Nation. Retrieved September 6, 2018. 
  32. ^ "EMILY's List To Present 'Rising Star' Award To Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley". Huffington Post. February 19, 2015. 
  33. ^ http://wgbhnews.org/post/why-cant-emilys-list-get-millennial-women-vote-plus-ayanna-pressley-walks-water
  34. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People in Boston". Boston Magazine. April 24, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ Globe, Staff (2018-01-31). "7 things about Ayanna Pressley". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-09-06. 
  37. ^ Toness, Bianca Vázquez (February 15, 2011). "Pressley Is A Compelling, But Vulnerable Councilor". WBUR-FM. 
  38. ^ "TheGrio's 100: Ayanna Pressley, first black woman elected to Boston City Council overcomes life full of obstacles". The Grio. January 30, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Preliminary Municipal Election - City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of Boston.gov. City of Boston. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  40. ^ "Municipal Election - City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of Boston.gov. City of Boston. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Municipal Election - City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of Boston.gov. City of Boston. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  42. ^ "CITY OF BOSTON PRELIMINARY MUNICIPAL ELECTION - SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 CITY COUNCILLOR AT LARGE" (PDF). cityofboston.gov. Retrieved February 16, 2018. 
  43. ^ "CITY OF BOSTONMUNICIPAL ELECTION - NOVEMBER 5, 2013 CITY COUNCILLOR AT LARGE" (PDF). cityofboston.gov. Retrieved February 16, 2018. 
  44. ^ "CITY OF BOSTON MUNICIPAL ELECTION - NOVEMBER 3, 2015 CITY COUNCILLOR AT LARGE" (PDF). cityofboston.gov. Retrieved February 17, 2018. 
  45. ^ "CITY OF BOSTON MUNICIPAL ELECTION - NOVEMBER 7, 2017 CITY COUNCILLOR AT LARGE" (PDF). cityofboston.gov. Retrieved February 18, 2018. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]