With Ayanna Wanting to Retire Mike, Marty Will Inevitably Be on the Spot

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Within a few hours of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley announcing she would challenge  incumbent Michael Capuano of Somerville in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative in the 7th Massachusetts District this fall, the Teamsters put out a press release endorsing Capuano.  That’s when I realized that a gigantic hot potato had landed in the lap of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The 7th District includes a large part of the City of Boston.  (Capuano divides the federal representation of the city with Stephen Lynch of the adjoining 8th District.)  Pressley, age 43, has lived for years in Dorchester and has served as an at-large member of the City Council since 2010. Pressley was the first African-American woman ever elected to the Boston City Council.  The last three times she ran for re-election, she came in first, first and second, respectively, in the at-large races.
Capuano, age 66, is a lifelong resident of Somerville, where he served as mayor from 1990 to 1999, and has been in the Congress ever since.  He won the seat when Joseph P. Kennedy, II, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, chose not to seek re-election.

During Capuano’s time in the Congress, his district has been significantly redrawn.  It now has a majority of residents who are minorities. 
In a written statement accompanying her announcement, Pressley said, “Today I humbly announce my candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 7th Congressional District.  I have made this decision after much prayer, deliberation, and thoughtful conversation with my family, friends, and those I hope to have the honor to represent in Congress.”

The statement continued:  “Our country is facing a critical moment.  While the cruel and dangerous tenor of the national political debate is new, the issues we are struggling to address – income inequality, systematic racism, and lack of economic opportunity – have dogged our nation for years.  We have not yet delivered on our nation’s foundational promise of equality.  Not everyone is granted the opportunity each of us deserves to fulfill our God-given potential.  Making progress on longstanding challenges requires a different lens and a new approach.  I will be a bold voice in Congress, as an advocate for the entire district and as a champion for opportunity.  This moment in time demands nothing less.”
Today, I could not find anything online regarding how Capuano reacted publicly, if at all, to Pressley’s decision to take him on in the September 4 primary, the day after Labor Day.  (This could reflect nothing more than my sorry skills in Internet research.)

I did find a good commentary in the online version of CommonWealth Magazine by Jack Sullivan, titled “What does Ayanna Pressley know that we don’t?” https://commonwealthmagazine.org/the-download/ayanna-pressley-know-dont/ 

Sullivan believes Pressley will have a hard time taking the Democratic nomination, in part, because Capuano is very popular in the district and starts with big campaign funding advantage.
“Pressley is challenging someone who is as progressive on issues as she is and who has been considered an ally of minorities throughout his tenure,” Sullivan wrote.  “It’s tough to see how replacing a veteran lawmaker with seniority helps her cause.  In the House, seniority matters.”

Teamsters Local 25 President Sean M. O’Brien, offering his union’s endorsement yesterday, said:
“Mike Capuano is a true champion for working men and women in Massachusetts and across this great nation.  With corporations taking calculated actions to weaken unions and strip workers of their rights and benefits, we need an experienced leader who will hold employers accountable and never make concessions that weaken the position of unions and all workers.”

While Teamsters Local 25 “has great respect for Councilor Pressley and has enjoyed a good working relationship with her on issues within the City of Boston,” O’Brien said, “we strongly support the re-election campaign of Congressman Capuano.  In today’s environment, Mike Capuano’s leadership is needed in Washington now more than ever.”
Before he became mayor, Marty Walsh was a state representative, a president of Local 223 of the Laborers Union, and head of the Boston Building Trades Council. He won the mayoralty, in large part, because of the extensive support he received from unions and union members, and his success in persuading many influential African-American and Latino leaders in the city to unite behind his candidacy after the primary. 

Pressley’s decision to challenge Capuano puts Walsh in a major bind.
To state the obvious, there are a lot of votes in Boston.  The incumbent mayor is, almost automatically, a major player in other people’s elections where Boston voters vote.  If the incumbent is popular, as the late Tom Menino always was and as Walsh is now, the mayor’s endorsement and the support of his organization are highly coveted.     

Perhaps Walsh will try to remain above the battle.  He could say that he’s a dear friend of both Capuano and Pressley and cannot possibly be expected to choose between them.  Or, with his eye on a third term in 2021, he could make the hard and necessary political decision to endorse Ayanna Pressley.



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