Fresh Off Victories In Primaries, Mass. Democrats Call For Unity

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Ayanna Pressley at a Massachusetts Democratic Party Unity event in Dorchester Wednesday. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Ayanna Pressley at a Massachusetts Democratic Party Unity event in Dorchester Wednesday. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

It's barely been two days since Ayanna Pressley won a a stunning upset in the 7th Congressional District primary, ousting longtime incumbent Michael Capuano.

With Pressley's decisive victory, Capuano became the latest casualty in a series of political upsets that are reshaping the Democratic Party.

In Dorchester Wednesday, Pressley gathered with fellow state Democrats, including those who had supported her opponent. She was still in campaign mode — and described her victory as one step in a growing movement.

"The hate coming out of this White House will never be defeated by one vote. It can only be defeated by a movement, and this is our opportunity to build it," she said.

Pressley ran as an outsider, but talked about joining with the state's other top Democrats, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who backed Capuano. Pressley called Boston "a tribal parochial place," where many said she had no business running. But summoning a voice made hoarse from a long, grueling campaign, she called for Democratic unity.

Democrats applaud Pressley at the rally. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Democrats applaud Pressley at the rally. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

"We are one human family. Our destinies are tied. This can be our finest hour. It will take a movement. Let's get this ticket elected — from the corner office all the way down," she said.

Walsh said he backed Capuano because he was a friend. Walsh is part of a Democratic establishment that supported the incumbent. But he praised Pressley's victory, and said it portends a blue wave in November, and he rejects the idea that he was one of the big losers on primary day.

"There's no big losers in this. You pick sides, whatever happens at the end of the day, you come together. Ultimately, I was not on the ballot in those races. You can't bring it home for people. She won because she did the work," he said.

The only top state Democrat to back Pressley was Attorney General Maura Healey, who says the upset win sends an important message to Democrats across the country.

"That change is possible. The power is with the people, and people across the country should take heart in that, and the Democratic Party needs to pay attention to that. Put forth candidates who are going to be about people and ideas, solutions and moving forward. and I think that's the message from yesterday," she said.

Pressley's victory is just the latest, following big wins by several candidates who challenged establishment Democrats and won. Jay Gonzalez, the Democratic nominee challenging the popular Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, says Pressley proved that underdog, grassroots campaigns can win.

"Incumbency and money and special interests and pundits don't decide elections. People do," he said.

But money can help, and in challenging Baker, Gonzalez faces an incumbent with a lot of it. On Wednesday, Gonzalez called on Baker to take a so-called "people's pledge" to forgo outside spending — keeping dark money and super PACs out of the governor's race. Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown took such a pledge during their Senate contest six years ago, and Gonzalez urged Baker to join him and do the same.

Baker has more than $6 million in his campaign account, while Gonzalez has less than $200,000, and Baker has a big advantage in outside money. That might be why the Baker campaign didn't pounce on Gonzalez's offer. It issued a statement saying it "will continue to comply with the letter and spirit of all Massachusetts campaign finance laws and regulations."

This segment aired on September 6, 2018.


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Anthony Brooks Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.



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