Who Is Ayanna Pressley? Progressive Democratic Candidate Dumps 10-term Incumbent in Massachusetts

Ayanna Pressley defeated the 10-term incumbent Representative Michael Capuano in a Democratic primary for a Massachusetts House seat on Tuesday night.

In 2009, Pressley, 44, became the first African-American woman elected to the Boston City Council.

Her victory on Tuesday night echoes that of another Democratic candidate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated party veteran Joe Crowley in New York.

Capuano, 66, is a former mayor of Somerville, which is part of greater Boston, and has represented Massachusetts's 7th Congressional District since 1999.

Pressley's policy platform includes supporting Medicare for all, stricter gun control laws, including a ban on assault weapons, and expanding rent subsidies for low-income families.

In her victory speech, Pressley said her campaign was "for those who don't see themselves reflected in politics or government and are forever told that their issues, their concerns, their priorities can wait."

And she had a few words for her own party. "You, your families and friends, neighbors—all demanded, expected and deserved more. You saw what I saw," she said.

"That these times demanded more from our leaders and from our party. That these times demanded an approach to governing that was bold, uncompromising, and unafraid.

"That with our rights under assault, with our freedoms under siege, that it's not just good enough to see the Democrats back in power, but it matters who those Democrats are."

Pressley also called President Donald Trump "a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man" in her speech but said policies that fueled inequality in her district were in place long before he took office.

Since there is no Republican candidate running against Pressley, she is all but guaranteed to win the general election in November.

According to the biography on her campaign website, Pressley was born in Chicago, the "only child of an activist mother who instilled in her the value of civic participation."

"My mother raised me on her own because my father was battling an addiction and was in and out of prison for most of my childhood," Pressley said in a 2009 article published on Boston University's website.

"We often lived paycheck to paycheck. Thanks to my mother's sacrifices, I was able to attend one of the best schools in Chicago.

"I believe that no family should have to make the sacrifices my mother made. Our schools should be rewarding for all students. We can do better, and I want to help our schools improve.

"I came to Boston to attend Boston University, but never graduated. As it turned out, I also had to make sacrifices for the sake of our family. My mother lost her job, so I left school to work full-time to support her."

Before her election to Boston City Council, Pressley was a senior aide to Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II and then political director for Senator John Kerry, who later became secretary of state under President Barack Obama.