^ Ready to door knock in Brighton : “Team Capuano” feels good about their guy

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Ten days ago I wrote a fairly long column about why I personally support Mike Capuano for re-election as one of two Boston-plus Congresspeople. This time I would like to argue more generally about why I think the voters of our District should re-elect him. I will focus not on his strengths in office but on the forensics of the campaign itself.

Ayanna Pressley, Capuano’s well-liked opponent, with an estimable record of her own as a Boston City Councillor, has argued two points. Neither one stands up to cross-examination :

First : that the Democratic party needs new voices. Voters don’t elect a Congress-person for the sake of a political party. They elect for the benefit of everyone. The Committee that Capuano will chair — Transportation, Pipelines, and Hazardous materials — oversees crucial infrastructures underpinning everyone who lives in and near Boston, as well as the Federal funds which, by law, are dedicated to maintenance and upgrading of these infrastructures. As Committee chairman, he sets funding priorities as well as the time involved to secure said appropriations. If anything, the power that Capuano will exercise over these infrastructures is a solid reason for NOT ousting him in favor of a “new voice.”

Pressley may argue that as the vote on September 4th is a Democratic primary, the future of that party is very much the main issue. But no. In the 7th District almost everyone enrolled in a party enrolls as a Democrat because every office on every ballot, except Governor, is decided there; and if you want to have a voice in who gets elected, you vote in the Democratic primary. Very few who vote in the Democratic primary care much, or at all, about Democratic party matters. For example : Democratic ward committees — the party structure set up by MGL c. 55 —  endorse candidates in party primaries who, more often than not, fail to win the Democratic primary in which the voters, not just party activists, vote.

Second : Pressley argues that as the population of the 7th District is mostly non-Caucasian, she, as a woman of color, is more representative than Capuano. I find this argument without merit. A candidate earns a vote because of what they stand for and can do, not because they have this biology or that one.

Boston has five City Councillors who are women of color, three State Representatives, and one State Senator. Two other women hold office in the City. We’ve had State Senators of color going back to the 1970s. We’ve had an African-American District Attorney : Ralph Martin. The city elected an at-large City Councillor of color, Tom Atkins, as far back as the late 1960s. Ed Brooke, then an Elm Hill resident, was elected a United States Senator, twice. David Nelson ran for Congress in the ancestor of the District now held by Stephen Lynch. He won a solid percent of the total vote and was later appointed a Federal Judge. It is not as though Boston voters are unwilling to elect candidates of color. Quite the opposite.

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Campaigns matter. You have to pick your spot, and, assuming you’ve picked smartly, you have to make your case. That case has to answer the basic question : why am I a better choice than my opponent ? And, if you are challenging an incumbent, the question has a second part : what can I do that the incumbent cannot ? The reverse question also demands an answer : what can you, the challenger do, that I, the incumbent, am not already doing ?

To these questions the answer “change can’t wait,” which Pressley has argued, is no answer at all. You can’t say “change can’t wait” until you have shown the voter why there should be change at all.

Pressley argues that change is needed because of Donald Trump. I fail to see why Mike Capuano should be replaced because of Donald Trump. Capuano is an opponent of Mr. Trump, not a supporter; and as a Committee chairman in the new Congress, he’ll be an even more influential opponent. If anything, Pressley’s change argument cuts against her. If the nation were at political peace, voters might say “OK, a new voice,” because nothing would be lost or at stake. But now, of all times, when the future of the nation is on the line, opponents of Mr. Trump need all the clout we can get.

To sum up : I like Ayanna Pressley, politically and personally. She’s a fine speaker, an effective Councillor, an advocate for small business, and good company. Many of my friends support her, and she has earned that support. But this campaign is not only about Ayanna Pressley’s accomplishments. It’s about Mike Capuano as well, and, ultimately, about Federal power and who can best use it for all the voters of the District.

Adrian Walker in today’s Boston Globe appears to decry that the “status quo” is in good shape in Massachusetts. Why is that bad ? If those in office are doing a diligent and forward-looking job — as almost all of our current electeds are, including Mike Capuano — maybe the status quo is exactly what we should want.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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