Boston state Rep.-elect Nika Elugardo says the Democratic Party is ‘straight-up racist’

"The structural racism that we're talking about dismantling is in the party," she said during a recent panel discussion on WGBH's "Basic Black."

Some of the newly-elected Democratic women in Massachusetts say they had to work against their own party to secure their wins.

State Reps.-elect Nika Elugardo and Liz Miranda and Suffolk County District Attorney-elect Rachael Rollins, speaking on a panel on WGBH’s “Basic Black” last Friday, detailed how the party highlighted white candidates in its literature and boosted their primary election opponents as they discussed their winning campaign strategies.

Elugardo went so far as to call the party “straight-up racist.”

“What needs to be said in a straight forward way is that the Democratic Party is straight-up racist,” Elugardo told host Callie Crossley. “The structural racism that we’re talking about dismantling is in the party, and this is one of the reasons why it’s frustrating to be standing up on a stage at a Democratic Party behind speeches being made about Republicans dividing the country.”


“Here’s the thing: You have 30 minutes of a speech, 30 percent of it is bashing people, 30 percent of it is talking about why we’re unifiers, and then the rest is rhetoric with a couple of sentences thrown in I can actually clap for legitimately,” she added.

Elugardo, of Jamaica Plain, beat out state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, in the September primary to secure her spot at the helm of the 15th Suffolk/Norfolk District.

She said there was major party support for Sanchez in the race.

But she said she made a point to understand what specific change constituents were looking for in their representatives. Her campaign laid out a vision that didn’t rely on “just speaking negatively like the Democratic Party has become fond of doing, attacking the other side, finding scapegoats,” she said.

Elugardo was particularly critical of party leadership, which has led Democrats in the wrong direction, she said.

She added that she became a Democrat only last year when she filed her papers to run for office, pointing to her experience voting for the first time for President Bill Clinton.

“I was sick to my stomach to have to vote for him because I hated his policies on race, I hated his policies on so-called welfare, I hated his policies on criminal justice,” she said. “Now everybody wants to talk about it, back then everybody was celebrating him for some reason. I’ve been sick to my stomach ever since.”


Miranda, of the 5th Suffolk District, told the panel — which also included Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer — she thinks the Democratic Party has to take look at itself, considering the three candidates elected this fall didn’t receive much help but still won.

“We all won without major support for our primaries,” Miranda said.

“Or any,” Rollins added. “Stop being nice.”

Rollins, who won the September primary against four candidates, recalled how party literature they were to hand out to voters featured mostly white candidates and now Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley.

“What’s so beautiful about this moment is that nobody helped, at least me, to get here,” Rollins said. “We don’t owe anyone anything. I report to the voters.”

In a statement to the State House News Service, Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford said the party is “thrilled” about the candidates elected this year and looks forward to working with them.

“We are working every day to build a more diverse and inclusive Party in Massachusetts, and we always welcome constructive feedback on how we can do that better,” Bickford’s statement said. “While Party bylaws prohibit us from actively supporting candidates in primary elections, we are thrilled with the slate of candidates who were elected on Tuesday, and look forward to working with them to continue fighting for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, communities of color, and working families here in the Commonwealth.”

Watch the full panel discussion over at WGBH.


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