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Ayanna Pressley Upsets Rep. Capuano in Massachusetts Democratic Primary

Capuano is second incumbent Democratic congressman to lose a primary this cycle

Ayanna Pressley defeated Rep. Michael E. Capuano in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts’ 7th District earlier this month. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Ayanna Pressley defeated Rep. Michael E. Capuano in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts’ 7th District earlier this month. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano became the second Democratic congressman to lose in a primary this year, falling to Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in a race that attracted national attention as the latest referendum on the future of the Democratic Party.

With 46 percent of precincts reporting, Pressley led the 10-term incumbent 55 percent to 45 percent when The Associated Press called the race for Massachusetts’ 7th District. 

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but this is life, and this is O.K. America’s going to be O.K. Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman, and I will tell you that Massachusetts will be well served,” Capuano said, according to The New York Times. 

During the campaign, Capuano touted his credentials as an “unabashed liberal,” but he found himself competing with Pressley over who was the more progressive candidate. 

With her primary win in the safe Democratic seat, Pressley is now poised to become the state’s first African-American elected to the House. She was the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council in 2009. She also worked as a senior aide to former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and former Sen. John Kerry.

Pressley netted endorsements from The Boston Globe and the rival Boston Herald. She also had the backing of the state’s attorney general, Maura Healey.

Capuano is now the second Democratic House incumbent to lose a primary this year, following House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley’s shock defeat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York in June. 

Recent polls had shown Capuano leading, and he was was ahead in both fundraising — $1.7 million compared to Pressley’s nearly $900,000 — and in cash on hand, $750,000 to $131,000, through Aug. 15, the end of the pre-primary reporting period.

Capuano also had the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, and Massachusetts’s first African-American governor, Deval Patrick. He had an A rating from the NAACP and hosted campaign events with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

The 7th District encompasses Boston’s residential neighborhoods and its surrounding suburbs, with large Hispanic, black and Asian populations, and is the state’s only majority-minority district.

Hillary Clinton carried the district by 72 points in 2016. No Republican candidates filed for the race that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Solid Democratic.

Capuano was the only Democratic incumbent in Massachusetts to lose a primary Tuesday night, with three others easily fending off challenges from the left.

1st District

Rep. Richard E. Neal easily beat back progressive challenger Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a civil rights lawyer who had attracted some national attention. 

With 44 percent of precincts reporting, Neal led Amatul-Wadud 70 percent to 29 percent when the AP called the race. 

The incumbent, who has held the seat for almost 30 years, had a heavy financial advantage, raising $2.5 million through Aug. 15 to Amatul-Wadud’s $113,000. 

Amatul-Wadud, a mother of seven who touted her support for “Medicare for All” legislation, stumbled with an admission that, in 2012, she voted for Republican Scott P. Brown over Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

Neal is in line to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee if Democrats take over the House.

8th District

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch easily won his Democratic primary Tuesday in his bid for a ninth full term. 

With 60 percent of precincts reporting, he led video game developer Brianna Wu 70 percent to 25 percent, according to the AP. 

9th District

Rep. William Keating easily fended off a challenge from his left in his bid for a fifth term. 

With 13 percent of precincts reporting, Keating led businessman Bill Cimbrelo 86 percent to 14 percent when the AP called the race. 

Keating will take on Republican Peter Tedeschi in November. Tedeschi has some name recognition from his family’s franchise of 200 convenience stores. He was added to the GOP “Contenders” list, the second of three levels in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program in August. But Inside Elections rates the seat Solid Democratic.

Watch: House Ratings Change in Favor of Democrats

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