Ayanna Pressley endorses Michelle Wu in Boston mayor’s race

Congresswoman gives a progressive boost to former colleague

US REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY endorsed City Councilor Michelle Wu in the Boston mayor’s race, giving her campaign a high-profile progressive boost with just over a month to go before the November 2 election. 

In a statement released Friday morning, Pressley, a former city council colleague, called Wu a “partner in the fight for equity and justice” and said she looked forward to continuing work with her to “tackle the entrenched challenges of racial, social, economic, healthcare, and environmental injustice facing our communities.”

Michelle has a passion for service and a vision for our city that is grounded in her own lived experience and belief in the transformative potential of policy,” Pressley said, calling Wu’s “bold leadership” what’s needed at this “pivotal moment in our city’s history.”

Wu, who finished first in the September 14 preliminary election, pointed to the work she’s done with Pressley in the past. 

“Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s bold leadership continues to reshape what’s possible in our city and country, and I’m so honored to receive her endorsement,” she said in a statement. “We’ve legislated together, organized together, and partnered on delivering change—from equity in city contracting and healthcare access, to fighting for transit justice.” 

Pressley was the first Black woman elected to the Boston City Council, in 2009, and went on to become the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts when she defeated incumbent Michael Capuano in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Her endorsement could give Wu, an at-large city councilor, a lift in the Black community, which is seen as a crucial battleground in her race against fellow at-large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. But it was hardly surprising, given Pressley’s strong progressive leanings, which align much more closely with Wu’s liberal platform than Essaibi George’s more moderate stand on issues such as police reform. 

Pressley’s endorsement might have proved more pivotal in the preliminary election, which saw two Black women candidates miss out on making it to the runoff. City Councilor Andrea Campbell finished third, about 3,000 votes behind Essaibi George, while Acting Mayor Kim Janey placed fourth, less than 300 votes behind Campbell. Pressley didn’t endorse a candidate in the five-way race.

There has been much discussion – and consternation – since the September 14 preliminary about the failure of a Black candidate to advance to the final election, with some lamenting the fact that Black voters didn’t coalesce more strongly behind one candidate. A third Black candidate, John Barros, finished fifth, well behind the pack. 

Lou DiNatale, a long-time political strategist, said Pressley could have had a big impact in the preliminary, but might also have alienated supporters of whichever candidate she didn’t back. She also would have run the risk of her candidate not making it to the final or losing there.

“It would have been a big gamble for her. This is a much easier thing,” he said of her endorsement of Wu, who has been the frontrunner since the race began. “She’s a traditional pol and hedged her bet,” he said of Pressley staying out of the preliminary race. 

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Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Pressley’s endorsement on Friday came six days after Janey threw her support behind Wu, the first strong signal from Black leadership in the city after the field was set for the final election.

DiNatale said the combination of Janey and Pressley endorsing Wu is devastating for Essaibi George. “She’s toast,” he said. “That’s why she went on the attack. She’s got to make something happen right now.” 

He was referring to comments Essaibi George made on Thursday in a radio interview on GBH in which she suggested Wu has been a less visible presence than she has in the city’s neighborhoods. Essaibi George also stirred controversy by suggesting an important difference between the candidates is that Wu grew up in Illinois while Essaibi George is a Boston native. “It’s relevant to me, and I think it’s relevant to a lot of voters whether or not they’re born and raised in the city,” she said in the interview.