Photo: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) speaks to voters outside a polling place at NC A&T University on Friday. (photo by Jordan Green)
Ayanna Pressley, a congresswoman from Massachusetts who won her seat through a primary upset against an incumbent fellow Democrat in 2018, told students at NC A&T University not to count out Elizabeth Warren.
During a stop outside the Dudley Building, the early-voting site at A&T, on Friday, Pressley recalled that the polls had her down by 13 points, but she won by 18.
“And that is because you cannot poll transformation,” Pressley said. “So, do not ride the poller-coaster. Transformation is afoot. A paradigm shift is afoot. And this movement is about big, structural change.”
Pressley broke ranks with other members of the “Squad” — four progressive Democrat women of color elected to Congress in 2018 — by endorsing Warren, a senator who also hails from Massachusetts. The other members of the Squad, most visibly Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have endorsed frontrunner Bernie Sanders.
Today’s get-out-the-vote rally was Pressley’s second visit to A&T on Warren’s behalf. Pressley appeared alongside Warren at Harrison Auditorium in November when the candidate was interviewed by CNN and NPR commentator Angela Rye. Today’s stop at A&T followed an appearance by Pressley earlier in the day to rally volunteers at Warren’s Durham campaign office.
Warren has struggled to gain traction, with disappointing third- and fourth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively, but her fiery takedown of opponent Michael Bloomberg during the last debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday has re-energized her campaign going into the Nevada caucus, which takes place tomorrow.
Pressley said Warren presents “the starkest contrast to the current occupant” of the White House, who she called an “equal-opportunity offender and abuser-in-chief, this go-it-alone narcissist.”
“She is a coalition and a movement builder; we have someone who sows the seeds of division,” Pressley said. “We have someone who lives and thrives on chaos. And some might lead you to believe that the reason why we have not been able to realize racial justice, gender justice, climate justice, LGBTQIA justice, healthcare, housing justice is because of a deficit of resources, it’s actually because of a deficit of empathy.
“Let me remind you of the power of Es,” Pressley continued. “Elizabeth Warren is energetic. She is empathetic. She is effective. And she is electable.”
Warren’s most direct competitor in the contest for votes in the Democratic primary is her friend, Sanders.
Seth Washington, a junior at A&T who is majoring in political science, cast his vote for Sanders on Feb. 13, the first day of early voting. But he said Warren is appealing for many of the same reasons as Sanders.
“Who do I align with most? Of course,” he said, “Bernie and Elizabeth Warren with the clearing debt, that’s a good talking point to especially college students. We love to hear stuff like that because that directly affects us.”
Vivian Van Deese, who came from Davidson County to attend the rally, said supporting Warren was “an easy call,” adding that Sanders’ advanced age is a liability.
“I like her stand on just about everything, and she has a plan for everything,” said Van Deese who works as a reset specialist at a grocery store. “I like her wealth tax to be helping our poor and our needful people in this country — to get a helping hand, but a helping hand up, not a helping handout. I want to see income inequality lessened, and I think this will be a help to do that.
“I like that she is a grassroots [person], that she is beholden to none but the voters” Van Deese continued. “I think that is a big part of where big money in politics makes it corrupt. I like her Green New Deal. I like her flair, her managing style, her experience in office.”
Pressley’s visit to A&T on Warren’s behalf drew about 45 people, including two local congressional candidates. Rhonda Foxx, a former congressional aide who is running in the 6th Congressional District, has received Pressley’s endorsement. Foxx posed for a photo with the Massachusetts congresswoman, but did not speak during the rally. Derwin Montgomery, a state House representative and former Winston-Salem City Council member who is also seeking the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District, also attended the rally.
Foxx and Montgomery have both come out in support of universal healthcare, commonly described as “Medicare for All.” That position aligns them with Warren and Sanders in the progressive lane of the Democratic primary.
Montgomery said during an interview on Friday that he believes the 6th Congressional District Democratic candidates’ positions on healthcare, like their counterparts in the presidential race, are more alike than different. Similar to the 2008 election, he said he believes the vigorous campaign debate over healthcare will carry over into a policy debate and action after the election.
“When you look back in 2009, when Democrats had control, we had this same kind of banter back and forth when we were dealing with the [Affordable Care Act] and we ended up not getting as progressive a policy because they took the public option off the table,” Montgomery said. “This dialogue, no matter who wins the presidential election, this dialogue is going to translate into the next Congress in 2021.”
Foxx sought to distinguish herself from Montgomery, saying she’s the only candidate in the race who has applied to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“I believe if we elect people with the right priorities, we can fund basic healthcare,” she said. “We can get to a place where we all have quality healthcare. We can get to Medicare for All. It’s going to take work. We have to realize that in the interim, while we get to Medicare for All, we have to strengthen the healthcare system that we have.
“We have to be firm,” Foxx continued, “and understand that the only way we can eliminate disparities in our healthcare system is if we have basic universal healthcare.”