Meet Ayanna Pressley, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Massachusetts Primary

A surprising upset in the Bay State


Ayanna Pressley, touted as the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just won a Massachusetts primary.

Ocasio-Cortez beat 10-year incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D–N.Y.) in the Democratic primary for New York's 14th Congressional District race in June. Ocasio-Cortez worked the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D–Mass.), was an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I–Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, and worked as a bartender prior to her win. The upset received national attention largely because Ocasio-Cortez is a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America. As FiveThirtyEight reports, a Massachusetts candidate has followed in the footsteps of the young Ocasio-Cortez with a surprising upset against a mainstream Democrat challenger on Tuesday evening.

Ayanna Pressley beat Rep. Michael Capuano (D–Mass.) in the state's 7th Congressional District in a historic upset. Parallels between Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez were quickly observed as Pressley went up against a Democratic incumbent who was first elected into office in 1998. The comparisons ended there, however, as Capuano is already very progressive on various issues, such as Medicare for all. Pressley's positions are also very progressive. For example, her campaign promoted a "listening-only hearing" on gun violence that she put on while serving in local government. Additionally, Pressley entered her race with political experience, working 16 years as a congressional aide and serving nine years as a Boston city councilor. In fact, Pressley was the first black woman elected to the city's council and now, running unopposed, will be the first black woman Massachusetts sends to Congress.

Pressley enjoyed an endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter.

Other candidates who had been compared to Ocasio-Cortez were not as fortunate.

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud lost the state's 1st Congressional District to Rep. Richard Neal (D–Mass.). Like Crowley, Neal is an incumbent, serving his 15th term in the House. Amatul-Wadud would have been among the first Muslim women in Congress. While she was similarly outspent by her opponent, Amatul-Wadud did not raise much in her race, coming in at $113,000. According to her website, Amatul-Wadud's platform includes support for Medicare for all, opposing religious exemption laws, and promoting a path to citizenship for DREAMers.

Brianna Wu also lost her bid for the state's 8th Congressional District to challenger and incumbent Rep. Stephen Lynch (D–Mass.). Wu was also outspent by her opponent, but not as significantly as found in other races. Wu works as a video game designer and was a victim of Gamergate. Similar to Ocasio-Cortez, Wu was much more progressive than her more opponent, who is known for being a more conservative Democrat. Her website lists criticisms of the "one percent" as well as support for a Universal Basic income, gun control, and single-payer healthcare, calling it a "right."

Other Democratic socialist candidates have not been successful this year. Candidates in high-profile campaigns across the country who were jointly backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have lost their races at alarming rates.