It’s near impossible to mention Boston At-Large Councilor Ayanna Pressley without the epithet, first woman of color in the body’s 101 years. That’s true enough and important in that she leads on underplayed issues like domestic violence, advancement of women and girls, and protection of children.
As she made plain in today’s podcast, she wants voters to make her gender one factor, her race one factor, but to concentrate on her record and future aims. She also thinks making voters aware of how many micro and macro issues affecting their lives that the Council has a hand in will get people involved.
She admitted that many still see municipal government as the bottom rung of power. Instead, “it the form of government closest to the community,” she said. “The issues we’re working on are things they pray about in math, curse about watching the evening news, and shake their heads about when reading the newspaper.” (By the bye, she advocates a return to civics classes in the BPS to aid awareness.)
After getting about 42,000 votes to win her first term in a large turnout election, including a mayoral race, she expects and is working for getting her supporters out on Nov. 8th. She figures to stay in office if her base â€” progressives, women, voters of color and her home community â€” turns out. As Mayor Tom Menino said in her support at a recent Hyde Park visit, she’s only been in office one term and has not built up a machine. She said she is working hard to make sure her people hit the polls.
She had the grace to be our guest despite laryngitis scratching up her voice.
We talked about her joint campaigning with at-large Councilor John Connolly (long-term friend with shared interests, whose greatest benefits are providing an entry by appearing together, not by sharing funds, which have to be matched dollar for dollar). She spoke of her adjustment to the reality that Councilors on two-year terms had to raise money and campaign every day. We got into the issue of identity politics, such as erstwhile and hopeful at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty, trying to mine South Boston’s votes. Pressley noted that Districts 2, 3 and 7 all have contested races, which she expects to bump up the predictions of dismal turnout this time.
She described her sense of accomplishment in getting right to work from the beginning on big areas and granular ones. She is wont to say she doesn’t want to be an historical footnote (as in first woman of color on the Council), rather she wants her record to shine.
On the way, she has found out that unlike when she worked for U.S. Congressmen, “the expectation for a City Councilor is that you are at everything.” She hits as many events and public appearances as she can while still doing her job at City Hall, but there’s “always one place you are not.” She called this expectation “the blessing and the beauty and power of it, but it’s also the burden of it.”