The Massachusetts primaries were huge for women candidates. Here’s what happened:
Pressley vs. Capuano
Of course, the main story of the night: Ayanna Pressley’s defeat of 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano. It was a major upset that will be analyzed all the way into the national midterms. Expect to hear a lot of comparisons to New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and talk of how much the national Democratic party will shift left (although in this case, Capuano was already a proud and noted progressive).
Pressley has long spoken about issues pertaining specifically to girls and women, she recently expounded on this in a conversation with Exhale. On the Boston City Council, she established the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities. She has pointed to issues ranging from reproductive health care, to prevention of sexual and domestic abuse, to the gender wage gap as some of her legislative priorities.
Pressley’s campaign slogan, #ChangeCantWait, was a nod to her decision to run in the face of Massachusetts’ somewhat notorious “wait your turn” style of politics, where newcomers have traditionally been expected to wait for incumbents to retire before throwing their hat in the ring.
But there’s a local aspect to Pressley’s story that the national papers might miss, and it’s one that should not be ignored: Pressley was the first woman of color to serve on the Boston City Council—a barrier she broke in 2010 that many local voters might already take for granted. Today, the Boston City Council is split almost half-and-half(!) between white men and women of color. In this writer’s humble opinion, that is not something to gloss over lightly in a city that remains highly racially segregated.
And while white political pundits and voters may brush aside this fact with a dismissive mention of “identity politics,” they should not forget that white politicians engage in their own form of ‘playing the race card’ all the time. Pressley will be headed down to Washington into the belly of that beast, where the president continues to court white supremacists. Be on the lookout for how the lessons she learned breaking glass ceilings in Boston inform her approach in the Capitol.
Suffolk County District Attorney
In yet another surprise win, Rachael Rollins won this race. I say “Surprise win” because even though Greg Henning wasn’t an incumbent, it seemed in a lot of ways that it was his race to lose. He came from predecessor Dan Conley’s office with his blessing and was heavily backed by police groups.
But Rollins successfully garnered the interest of progressives both near (Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, Our Revolution Boston) and far (activist Shaun King), as well as the endorsement of the Boston Globe editorial board. Rollins’ win seems like a pretty strong indication that efforts by activists and groups like the ACLU to push criminal justice reform through DA elections is having an effect.
And let’s not forget the other two women in the race, Linda Champion and Shannon McAuliffe, who were also new to electoral politics. A “failed” local election never has to be just that—it can also be a trial run for next time. Now that they have the kind of name recognition they didn’t have before, we’ll have to wait and see whether they reinvest it in a future political run.
The licensed physical therapist from Grafton won the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District to go against longtime incumbent Jim McGovern in November. Lovvorn, who previously spoke to Exhale, is in favor of term limits and wants to tackle the opioid crisis. But in a sign of the Trump Effect on a local level, she has also called for an end to family preference in immigration visas—or “chain migration,” long a talking point on the margins of the right that is out of step with the U.S.’s immigration history but has gained new life under the current administration.
3rd Congressional District
A crowded race saw multiple women candidates entering: consulting firm executive Lori Trahan, state representative Juana Mattias, state senator Barbara L’Italien, former intelligence officer Alexandra Chandler, and bank vice president Bopha Malone. Though Trahan claimed victory, as of 10:45 am, the race between Trahan and Dan Koh is too close to call (each with about 22 percent of the vote) and Secretary of State Bill Galvin has ordered that the ballots be sealed and locked up to avoid tampering in anticipation of a recount.
The other women contenders bring a range of voices to the table: Chandler is an openly transgender candidate, Malone spoke about coming to the U.S. as a refugee, and L’Italien managed to trick Fox News into giving her air time in order to stand up for a particularly vulnerable group of women: mothers at the southern border whose kids have been taken away by the Trump administration.
And Let’s Not Forget: Women Who Did Not Win But Are Worth a Mention
- In Southie, Brianna Wu tried to unseat longtime incumbent Stephen Lynch. Wu cut her teeth fighting sexism in the famously male-dominated gaming industry. Will she try again in the political realm?
- In Western Mass, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud ran against incumbent Richard Neal. She would have been the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.