US Representative Ayanna Pressley sounded an urgent call to City Council candidates Sunday during a get-out-the-vote rally in Roxbury, arguing that turnout in local elections, like Tuesday’s, will be critical to getting people to cast ballots in next year’s national presidential election.
The rally, organized by the Massachusetts Democratic Party, was intended to encourage participation in Boston’s Tuesday preliminary election, which has 38 candidates running for the Boston City Council — and could help create the most diverse body in the city’s history.
Pressley, a former city councilor herself before her election last year to Congress, said that local candidates should focus on getting voters to participate in the election.
“Yes, I know the candidates hope that people will cast their ballot and support you — but what you most care about is just that they show up and make their voices heard,” Pressley told a crowd of about 100 candidates and volunteers gathered in a parking lot at Roxbury Community College.
Winners in Tuesday’s preliminary vote will appear on the city’s Nov. 5 municipal ballot.
To emphasize her point, Pressley called rival candidates running for Boston’s City Council to come up on stage and smile for a group photo — making perhaps a surreal moment in the annals of the city’s history of cutthroat politics. “1-2-3 vote Tuesday, Sept. 24,” the crowd of candidates called out as the photo was taken.
Candidates at the rally included at-large council candidates Alejandra St. Guillen, David Halbert, Julia Mejia, and Priscilla Flint-Banks; District 5 candidates Cecily Graham and Alkia Powell; District 8 candidate Kenzie Bok; District 9 candidate Jonathan Allen; and current District 7 councilor Kim Janey and at-large City Councilor Michelle Wu.
Many city residents don’t know about the upcoming vote, Pressley said, as she urged the candidates to do more to get people involved.
“I know that we are all on the same page, and someone said to me... ‘Why are you always preaching to the choir?’ ” Pressley said. “Well obviously, because I need you to sing.”
But even as Pressley called for unity among City Council candidates ahead of the 2020 presidential election Sunday, fissures have erupted in a US senatorial race as Pressley’s House colleague, US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, announced he is challenging their fellow Democrat, US Senator Edward J. Markey.
Markey spent nearly half an hour at the Roxbury rally, shaking hands and taking photos with volunteers. He left for a Democratic event in Newton just as Pressley arrived. The pair greeted each other and briefly spoke.
Pressley told reporters during the event she won’t endorse either Markey or Kennedy.
Pressley’s call for the City Council candidates to find common cause resounded with some of the would-be councilors. “We’re running because we really want to make change... some of us want the same things,” Flint-Banks said. “So there’s no need for fighting with each other; we just got to try to work together.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.