BOSTON (AP) – For all its liberal pretensions, Massachusetts hasn’t always been the most progressive of states when it comes to electing women to positions of political power.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters elected four women to the state’s 11-member congressional delegation – the most ever. At the same time, voters elected twice as many women as men to statewide office on Beacon Hill.
It wasn’t that long ago when women in high political office were still a relative rarity in Massachusetts
Just a decade ago, in 2008, the only woman holding statewide office was then-Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat. And the only woman on the state’s then 10-member congressional delegation was Democratic U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas.
The hard-fought shift didn’t go unnoticed Tuesday, when the election of women in Massachusetts and other states became a familiar theme.
The highest-profile woman on the Massachusetts ballot – Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren – credited women with leading the fight against the Trump administration during her victory speech after winning a second, six-year term.
“We’ve seen white women learning from black women how to organize and mobilize. Older women partnering with younger women to take to the streets. Married, single, straight, lesbian and transwomen, rich and poor women, building alliances with each other and, yes, building alliances with the men who also want to make real change in this country,” said Warren, who has promised to take “a hard look” at running for president in 2020.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley – who defeated longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary – ran unopposed Tuesday to become the first black woman elected to the U.S. House from Massachusetts. She will represent the 7th Congressional District.
Pressley said black women face an added challenge running for office.
“When it comes to women of color candidates, folks don’t just talk about a glass ceiling. What they describe is a concrete one,” Pressley said in her victory speech. “But you know what breaks through concrete? Seismic shifts.”
In the state’s 3rd Congressional District, Lori Trahan emerged the winner. During her victory speech Trahan, who grew up in Lowell, gave a shout-out to Tsongas, whose decision not to seek re-election led to a mad scramble to replace her.
Katherine Clark, who first won election to the U.S. House in 2012 to represent the 5th Congressional District, also pointed to the gains made by women seeking office in Massachusetts, saying she was thrilled to welcome Pressley and Trahan to the delegation.
“For the first time in our history we will have a record number of women representing the commonwealth in Washington,” Clark said in a statement after winning re-election.
At the Statehouse, voters re-elected Attorney General Maura Healey, Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Auditor Suzanne Bump – all Democrats – and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, a Republican. They also re-elected two men – Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic state Secretary William Galvin.
The victories for women candidates weren’t limited to statewide and congressional races.
In the Massachusetts House, Democrat Tram Nguyen defeated incumbent Republican state Rep. Jim Lyons from a district that includes Andover, while fellow first-time Democratic candidate Becca Rausch from Needham Heights defeated another Republican incumbent – state Sen. Richard Ross.
And in Boston, Rachael Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, won election to become the city’s first female district attorney and the first woman of color to hold such a job anywhere in Massachusetts. Rollins ran on the promise to help curb mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system while building trust between communities and law enforcement.
In another sign of the growing political clout wielded by women on Beacon Hill, 2018 marked the first time in state history when an incumbent female Senate president (Harriette Chandler) passed the gavel to an incoming female Senate president (Karen Spilka).