Representative Mike Capuano was hoping that Massachusetts voters would opt for his decades of experience over the tantalizing gleam of a fresh face.
Just more than an hour after polls closed on Tuesday night, the 10-term Democrat with a robust progressive voting record suddenly conceded to his über-progressive challenger, the Boston-city-council member Ayanna Pressley. “Clearly the district wanted a lot of change,” Capuano said sadly to a quiet room full of supporters. “We’ve done everything we could do to get this thing done … I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but this is life.”
It wasn’t that Capuano had done anything wrong, the people I spoke with said; he just couldn’t offer what Pressley could. “Capuano took this dead serious and ran a perfect race,” Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist, said in an interview, but “it’s clear that voters are looking for a very different kind of change to go to Washington.” Voters are angry, she said, and they want candidates with “fire in their belly” who can represent them, and boldly stand up to the policies of the Trump administration.
In the most recent poll, Pressley trailed Capuano by 13 points, but by the end of Tuesday evening, she led by 18. The win is perhaps the most powerful evidence yet that having progressive bona fides isn’t enough in 2018. Progressive voters want fresh faces. They want conversations about systemic racism and intersectionality. Most important, they want their candidates to have the “lived experience” of being nonwhite or nonmale in America—and on Tuesday, they got it.