Closing The Gap

Ayanna Pressley makes history as Massachusetts' first black woman elected to Congress

Ayanna Pressley has become the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.

Pressley defeated 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in the September Democratic primary for the 7th Congressional District. She did not have a Republican challenger in Tuesday's midterm elections.

"What I'm offering is a vision," she told supporters Tuesday night. "One where together we can break cycles of poverty, break and rebuild a criminal legal system that actually delivers justice. One where we can break through and affirm the rights of our transgender friends and neighbors. One where we can break through and create an economy where one job is enough."

Newly-elected Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley looks on before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astrosat Fenway Park on September 7, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. 
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
Newly-elected Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley looks on before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astrosat Fenway Park on September 7, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. 

She added that her vision is "one where we can break through and create a commonwealth in a country where the next generations' dreams aren't sabotaged by crippling student debt, where we can break through and keep our immigrant families safe and together. One where we can break through and address the public health crisis and epidemic that is gun violence and make the investment in the trauma response and recovery efforts to support those communities disproportionately impacted."

Pressley's victory over Capuano — a staunchly liberal Somerville native who had held his seat in Congress for 20 years — came as a surprise to many. When she learned that she had won her primary, Pressley herself was taken aback. In a reaction video that has since gone viral, Pressley's eyes widen, she puts a hand on her necklace and asks "We won?"

Following the midterm election, Pressley said she'd be focused on the issues that impact her constituents.

"While they are certainly exacerbated by the hatred and vitriol coming out of the White House, the challenges facing Massachusetts' 7th district are not new — they have existed for decades," she told CNBC Make It in a statement. "In Congress, I will be focused on lifting up the voices of those in community, partnering with activists and residents, and ensuring that those closest to the pain are closest to the power, driving and informing the policy-making."

Ayanna Pressley speaks at a rally calling on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court on October 1, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. 
Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Ayanna Pressley speaks at a rally calling on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court on October 1, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. 

When the 116th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, Pressley plans to begin to work on an agenda that encompasses a wide range of policy issues, from transportation to immigration.

"There is no single piece of legislation that will solve every challenge — that is why I introduced a comprehensive Equity Agenda, and have continued to hold community conversations related to pressing issues like criminal justice reform, gun control and public health," she told CNBC Make It. "I will also be focused on being an intentional, committed advocate for the people of the 7th District, using my position to draw attention to critical issues impacting our communities."

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