Emily’s List Endorsed Ayanna Pressley after She Already Won

The powerful group had vowed to stay out of the closely watched primary for Mike Capuano's seat.

Ayanna Pressley primary

photo via AP/Steven Senne

Emily’s List endorsed Ayanna Pressley on Monday, lending the Boston City Councilor a major boost and access to gobs of campaign cash and influential figures in politics. The only problem? She’d already won, unseating popular and well-funded incumbent Mike Capuano despite the degree to which the Democratic establishment lined up behind him, with everyone from Marty Walsh to the Congressional Black Caucus endorsing him.

Because Pressley will not face a challenger in the general election this year, she is all but assured to make history as the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress after the votes are tallied in November.

So in other words, by the time she got the endorsement from the powerful group that backs pro-choice Democratic women, there was nothing left to win.

“Ayanna Pressley is a longtime activist and community leader who is the voice Massachusetts families need fighting for them in Congress,” Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock said in the group’s announcement Monday. “She is deeply committed to advancing policies that help women and girls, and will continue to be a vocal advocate in the House of Representatives.”

The group cited her work as a City Councilor on liquor licenses and reforming school curricula, as well as other accolades including being named one of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Ten Outstanding Leaders, her placement on Boston‘s 50 Most Powerful People list, and the fact that Emily’s List had given Pressley its Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award in 2015.

Sounds like the kind of things you’d say months ago, with one of the year’s most closely watched primaries on the line.

But Emily’s List says it does not generally get involved in primaries if a Democrat is challenging a pro-choice incumbent, like Capuano. So the organization had said early in the race that it would stay out of the way, angering many Democrats in the process.

It’s all about thinking big picture, the group explains.

“We just have a very large map we’re looking at this year. We’ve endorsed a lot of candidates and we’re looking to flip seats where there is currently a Republican incumbent who we’re hoping to replace with a pro-choice Democratic woman,” Kristen Hernandez, Emily’s List campaign communications manager, tells me. “When choosing how to deploy our resources, unseating pro-choice Democratic incumbents hasn’t been as high of a priority.” She adds that even if it didn’t speak up for her or donate to her campaign, Emily’s List stayed “in touch with” Pressley during the primary.

Emily’s List also did not endorse a candidate in the Third District, where there was no Democratic incumbent, and several pro-choice women vying for the open seat. It has since thrown its support behind Lori Trahan, who is currently awaiting the results of a recount after a near tie with candidate Dan Koh. Whoever wins that race will face Republican Rick Green, a co-founder of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, and independent candidate Mike Mullen.

Even though Pressley won’t have a race to win in November, an endorsement from Emily’s List will provide her connections in Washington, as well as a leg up in any future races after her first two-year term. The organization has been credited with helping get women voted into office with hefty campaign donations, PAC-funded ads, a rolodex of donor contacts, and useful strategic advice.

All of which will be great for Pressley as she gets her bearings in D.C., but none of which helped her when she needed Emily’s List most.