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Capuano falls to Democratic challenger Pressley in Mass. primary

Rep. Michael Capuano has conceded to his Democratic challenger, Ayanna Pressley, in the Massachusetts primary, becoming the latest veteran lawmaker to go down against a progressive candidate in a stunning political upset.

Capuano, a 20-year veteran in Congress, made the concession around 9:20 p.m., according to The Washington Post. His opponent in the 7th District, 44-year-old Pressley, was the first woman of color ever elected to the Boston City Council. It was Capuano's first primary challenge during his nearly two decades in office.

The Associated Press called the race as of 9:53 p.m.

"We did everything we could do to get this done," Capuano said Tuesday night, according to WBZ NewsRadio in Boston. "I'm sorry it didn't work out ... but this is life. Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman."

Capuano is the fourth incumbent lawmaker to lose in a primary this cycle, joining Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Republican Reps. Robert Pittenger (N.C.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.). Capuano's loss comes at a time when lawmakers are facing strong anti-establishment sentiment.

Pressley seized on the progressive winds energizing the Democratic Party after 28-year-old and self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, in a primary earlier this summer.

Like Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley billed herself as a young woman of color looking to take on the Washington establishment. With no Republicans running in the deep-blue district, Pressley is all but assured to join Congress in January.

Pressley's victory is also the latest in a wave of wins by female Democratic challengers - and minority candidates - who've racked up consistent victories throughout primary season as another "year of the woman" builds ahead of November.

"The decision to challenge [Capuano] wasn't an easy one. I knew we'd essentially be alone," Pressley told supporters at her election night party Tuesday, adding that she knew she wouldn't have help from the Democratic establishment locally or nationally. "But change can't wait."

She also took aim at President Trump, calling him a "racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man." Trump is deeply unpopular in the Boston-area district as well as the traditionally blue state of Massachusetts.

Pressley, who is African-American, argued that her election would better represent the deeply diverse and liberal district than Capuano, a 66-year-old white man.

During her victory speech, Pressley said her win was "for those who don't see themselves reflected in politics and government" and for those who are told "their issues, concerns and priorities can wait."

The Boston city councilor picked up high-profile endorsements from Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and The Boston Globe.

National progressive groups praised Pressley for being the latest in a series of progressive upsets this cycle.

"A fearless fighter for Boston's Black, brown, and white working families, Ayanna Pressley will be a champion for progressive priorities like Medicare for All and criminal justice reform in Congress," said Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America.

"She'll make history as the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in House, but she'll also bring a range of life experiences - as a sexual assault survivor and the daughter of an incarcerated parent - that are desperately needed in our halls of power."

Capuano, one of the most liberal members in the Democratic caucus, had argued that his decades of experience in Congress would better equip him to fight Trump's agenda.

Several local residents told The Hill over the August recess that they had nothing against Capuano, but they wanted to see a fresh face represent the district.

Pressley's shock victory over Capuano comes even though she had been lagging in the polls by double digits leading up to Tuesday's election.

Pressley was also far out-fundraised by Capuano, who raised a total of $1.7 million this election cycle, compared to the $898,000 that Pressley raised.

Pressley also refused to take corporate PAC money and called to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a new rallying cry among the liberal base.

Capuano, instead, kept the focus on reuniting families who had been separated at the time by the White House's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which has now been halted.

"I voted against the creation of ICE. However, changing who enforces bad policy now doesn't fix that bad policy and it won't bring families back together," Capuano said in a statement, according to the Boston Herald. "The policies being enforce are more important than the agency enforcing them."

Updated on Sept. 5 at 8:48 a.m.

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