If anyone had told me it would take 30 plus years to see a young woman elected to Congress in the City of Boston, I could have never predicted it.
Watching Ayanna Pressley win in a hard-fought race where she was outspent by at least 3 times and where the establishment, save for Attorney General Maura Healy, owed the long-serving and dedicated incumbent 7th District Congressman Mike Capuano their support, made me nostalgic and hopeful.
You see I was a thirty-year-old candidate for office many years ago, and facing the same challenges, I narrowly lost my race for Boston City Council, the first year that District seats were re-established. I won the endorsement of The Boston Globe – “bright, articulate and refreshingly direct” they wrote, and many local community endorsements. In a crowded field for an open seat, I was told by my team to ideally squeak into second – Boston primaries being non-partisan and the top two vote-getters running off in the final. As if I could do anything but run as hard as I could, raise money, knock on every door and try to get votes. The $80,000 I raised at the time was a small fortune. And I was well managed so as not to go into debt – back then postage and printing were huge expenses in a local race.
Well, squeaking was never my thing, and I topped the crowded field by 800 votes. Shocking all the regulars, this margin galvanized those that didn’t want to see a new face, let alone a “girl” beat the boys. I went on to lose the final by 1400 votes out of a total of 29,000 cast- in a District City Council Race!
It was one of the best experiences of my life – meeting and talking to voters, raising issues that I was and still am passionate about, and fundraising. I learned so much through that experience it enabled me to hang out a shingle and start a communications consulting business. My plan was always to run again. To wait for the right moment and seat. That came ironically enough when Tip O’Neill stepped down from what at the time was the 8th Congressional District before redistricting – now the very same one that Ayanna just prevailed in. All the local incumbents flocked to vie for that seat – that’s what incumbent types were always trained to do. So I had a shot at an open state rep seat. Until someone named Joe Kennedy II moved into Brighton and emptied the rest of the field. As a result, long-serving incumbent Bill Galvin came back to claim his seat.
The rest is history. I stayed in that race – having already announced and raised money, only to be trounced by Galvin – no one was willing to take a chance on someone new – let alone a young woman – even one who had been campaign tested.
So this is why I say I am nostalgic and hopeful not only for soon to be Congresswoman-elect Pressley but for all the young women stepping forward to challenge incumbency – where merited. Let’s all be bold and support incumbents where deserved, but also give fresh faces who have paid their dues a fighting chance. To steal a phrase from Ayanna – Change Truly Cannot Wait.