Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley endorses Katjana Ballantyne for mayor of Somerville

United States Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley speaking on April 22, 2019 in Cabot ASEAN auditorium as part of the Tisch College Distinguished Speaker Series. Kyle Lui / The Tufts Daily Archives

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who represents Massachusetts’ Seventh Congressional District, announced her endorsements for the Nov. 2 Somerville municipal elections in October. Among other endorsements, Pressley supports Ward 7 City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne over City Councilor-at-large Will Mbah in the Somerville mayoral race.

Ballantyne was elected to the Somerville City Council in 2013. During her time on the city council, she has worked toward environmental sustainability, affordable housing and access to jobs. 

“During her campaign for Mayor, Katjana has presented a clear vision for Somerville’s future – rooted in inclusivity, equity, and justice – and a detailed plan for how to make that vision a reality,” Pressley wrote in a statement to the press. “I know that, as Mayor, Katjana will continue to provide the bold, committed leadership that the residents of Somerville both demand and deserve.”

Ballantyne expressed excitement about Pressley’s endorsement.

“[Pressley’s] strong voice speaks out for our neighbors who are not strong,” Ballantyne wrote in an email to the Daily. “Her powerful words defend vulnerable communities that have no power. I look forward to partnering with her to deliver a bold progressive agenda for Somerville.”

Will Mbah, who describes himself as the “most progressive candidate” in the mayoral race, has campaigned on affordable housing through rent control and a “Somerville Green New Deal.” In response to Pressley’s endorsement of Ballantyne, Mbah said he was more concerned with the issues facing voters than with endorsements.

“My focus isn’t on political endorsements,” Mbah told Boston.com in an interview. “It’s on listening to the voters who are struggling to afford to live here and need real solutions to our housing crisis.” 

Pressley also endorsed Willie Burnley Jr. for city councilor at-large alongside current City Councilor-at-large Kristen Strezo. Burnley is a local community organizer and former campaign staffer for Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. As a councilor, Burnley plans to focus on closing the housing gap in Somerville. 

“As someone who was once displaced from Somerville when my rent was raised hundreds of dollars, I stand with my neighbors who are struggling to get by and I know that we can do better to transform our community into a place that is more affordable, accessible, and accountable to all,” Burnley wrote in an email to the Daily. 

In response to Congresswoman Pressley’s endorsement, Burnley said he was excited, but not surprised.

“I was incredibly excited and gratified to receive Representative Pressley’s endorsement,” Burnley said. “I was not surprised because our Congresswoman and I share many of the same concerns around racial justice and bringing a new kind of leadership to elected positions.”

Burnley also noted that Pressley’s endorsement is critical to his vision of transforming governance within Somerville. 

“If we’re going to transform our community, make housing more affordable and a human right, we’re going to need to pull resources from our local, state, and federal government to invest in our city,” he said. “I look forward to doing that work shoulder-to-shoulder with one of Massachusetts’ leading progressive champions.”

Pressley also endorsed Judy Pineda Neufeld (LA’05) for Ward 7 city councilor. Pineda Neufeld is a former executive director of Emerge Massachusetts, a training program for Democratic women leaders looking to run for office. 

Pineda Neufeld believes the next city councilor should have the lived experiences and professional knowledge to hit the ground running on day one. 

“I think it’s really critically important that our ward has someone with the experience to take action and fight for what the residents need,” Pineda Neufeld said in an interview with the Daily.

Pressley was on the founding board of directors of Emerge Massachusetts and helped hire Pineda Neufeld for the executive director position. Pineda Neufeld was inspired by Pressley’s work in Boston and her legislative career, and hopes to follow in her footsteps. 

“Congresswoman Pressley [has said] this over and over; that the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, and that’s part of why I’m running,” Pineda Neufeld said. “I really believe that [when] we talk about equity and justice, it’s not just, you know, a box to check on a to-do list, but it’s really a lens to lead by, and to make decisions by.”

Overall, Pressley’s endorsements have bolstered the candidates’ campaigns. 

“Congresswoman Pressley’s enthusiastic endorsement of my campaign, and her presence at our recent campaign rally, have added even more excitement to our active, popular campaign,” Ballantyne said. 

According to Pressley’s statement, she is happy about the diverse slate of candidates and their commitments to Somerville.

“In this moment, when all of our communities are faced with both unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities, I’m proud to endorse this dynamic group, whose passion, determination, and unique perspectives will help make Somerville a more just and equitable community for everyone,” Pressley said. 

Aside from these individuals, Pressley also endorsed several incumbents for reelection: Kristen Strezo for city councilor at-large (to serve alongside Burnley), Matt McLaughlin for Ward 1 city councilor, J. T. Scott for Ward 2 city councilor, Ben Ewen-Campen for Ward 3 city councilor and Andre Green for the Somerville School Committee. Somerville’s Municipal Election will be held tomorrow, Nov. 2.


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