Pressley steers clear of Kennedy-Markey questions

Downplays endorsements, says what voters think is key

CONGRESSWOMAN AYANNA PRESSLEY shook up Massachusetts politics last year, but she isn’t weighing in on the potential juggernaut showdown between Congressman Joe Kennedy III and US Sen. Ed Markey.

“As for my good colleagues, Congressman Kennedy and Senator Markey – I enjoy a productive and good relationship with the both of them,” Pressley told reporters in Boston Monday night. “I am awaiting developments like everyone else, and just focused on governing and being in community, and being in the district.”

The hesitant approach Pressley has taken so far towards Kennedy’s potential challenge of a fellow Democrat stands in contrast with her bold decision last year to take on Michael Capuano, a Democrat and the longtime congressman for a district that runs through the heart of Boston.

Pressley batted away follow-up questions about whether she would endorse and whether she herself might mount a future campaign for Senate, insisting she is focused on governing. Pressley even minimized the decisions of politicians like her about whether and whom to endorse.

“This is not about endorsements or conjecturing or the analysis of pundits. This is between the people and the incumbent and the candidates,” Pressley said. “That certainly was true in our race, and I think that’s always true.”

The congresswoman was similarly discreet when asked about the large field of Democrats vying to take on President Donald Trump – a man who Pressley refers to as the “current occupant of the White House” rather than by his title.

“I like anybody on that stage over the current occupant of this White House,” said Pressley, touting her co-sponsorship of bills backed by multiple senators seeking the presidency, incuding Elizabeth Warren,  Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker.

The congresswoman spoke to reporters after an event at Boston English High School, where she convened housing experts to talk to constituents about the lack of affordable, quality housing in the Boston area and what to do about it.

The Dorchester Democrat shared her experiences of living in rental housing near Boston University – where her Brighton building, she says, was dubbed “Vermin Vista” – and sought feedback about policy ideas such as standardizing community benefit agreements to give developers some certainty about what would be expected of them.

Looking ahead to Congress potentially taking up an infrastructure package – an idea that in broad strokes has bipartisan support – Pressley said she wants federally-financed infrastructure to include housing.

Pressley told attendees she supports a program championed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to connect elderly residents who have spare bedrooms and young people who would be happy to do some household chores in exchange for an affordable room to rent.

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Donald Madry, a 75-year-old Jamaica Plain resident who was born and grew up in Roxbury, asked Pressley whether she would make housing a major political issue. “I certainly do hope 2020 candidates will make this a top issue,” she replied. “It certainly has to be more than a talking point. Those debate stages are real challenging.”

In conversation with Madry and others around him, Pressley said the presidential candidates right now can be persuaded to alter their policies.  “What I have been most encouraged by with what we see happening with the 2020 candidates is we’re seeing reactive policies. So candidates are rolling out a platform and a vision and articulating a plan, and then based on the amplified voices of all of you and what you’re demanding and you’re advocating for, we’re then seeing that reflected in their policy-making,” Pressley said. “Usually people roll out something and they stick to that. But I see people being more malleable, but I don’t think being malleable from a place of transaction where they just want your vote. But more malleable because they know the best solutions come from the people that are closest to an issue.”

In a brief interview, Madry said he wanted candidates up and down the ballot to make housing a political issue so many people who grew up in neighborhoods like Roxbury can no longer afford to live there.