BOSTON — Friday night found Rep. Michael Capuano in East Boston, at a Christmas dinner held by Latinos United in Massachusetts. The group asked him to promise he would get immigration reform passed next year if elected to the U.S. Senate.
Capuano told the audience he is happy to stand with them on the issue but warned it would be tough to get it through Congress in 2010, because it’s an election year.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Capuano told a banquet hall of mostly empty tables, “I am one of the few people around who I know who I am. I’m the grandson of immigrants, who actually came to East Boston first, before they moved to Somerville.”
Lucy Pineda, founder of Latinos United in Massachusetts, said her organization can’t endorse anyone, but she did predict a winner:
“Capuano,” Pineda said. “Capuano, he’s in Washington. He’s the person that is there, and he knows what’s going on with immigration reform. He knows what’s going on with the problems with the immigrant community, and we have a survey with the four candidates, and when I read the survey, Martha, she never answered nothing about immigration reform in the survey.”
The next morning, at the South Coast forum at UMass Dartmouth, Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca talked about his own immigrant roots.
“My grandfather was a shoemaker,” Pagliuca said. “He came from Italy in 1922 with nothing, worked on a factory floor.”
When the candidates there were asked about higher education, Capuano emphasized the importance of vocational schools instead.
“The difference is rhetoric, which sounds good versus action, that gets people to work now, and that’s what I’m saying,” Capuano said.
“From Day One, I’ve always thought that people should be offered a wonderful educational opportunity. They shouldn’t be required to have one beyond high school. If they want to go to high school and become a tradesman, I think that’s a good thing.”
Attorney General Martha Coakley told the audience at the Democrats’ forum that Massachusetts needs to send someone to Washington who can be effective at turning the economy around.
“And making sure that we bring jobs and grow jobs here in Massachusetts, that we hold Wall Street accountable and we make sure that we get out of this recession,” Coakley said.
Coakley seemed confident. After the debate, she thanked Capuano and told City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, “Good job, as always.”
Between now and the primary, on Tuesday, Khazei said he has to reinforce his message.
“It’s about big citizenship,” he said. “It’s about reform. It’s about new ideas. It’s about someone who’s not playing the game in the existing system free of PACs and lobbyists.”
Despite the gray, rainy day, people did show up for the Democratic candidates’ final forum. The crowd was full of those who are interested in the race and are likely to vote.
A Two-Person Race, Capuano Says
Capuano has tried to make this a two-person race between Coakley and himself. He seems to be closing in on that goal. He made headway with some voters, including Sue Wood, from Marion.
“Undecided coming in, and I think all of them would be terrific, but I’m definitely leaning toward Capuano after this,” Wood said. “Like he said, he’s very practical, pragmatic. He has great presence. I think he seems very passionate and seems like he can get things done in the Senate.”
Capuano said he is now in a statistical tie with Coakley.
“Bottom line is, I think where we want to be. We’re within the margin of error, is my belief, and it’s really mostly about getting the vote out and doing the last couple of things in the last couple of days.”
Coakley, meanwhile, spent the rest of the rest of the weekend making a series of campaign stops to energize her volunteers.
More than a hundred volunteers, many of them members of the unions who have endorsed Coakley, turned out to hear her at the Elks Lodge in Quincy Saturday night. She gave them the front-runner’s pep talk.
“This race is not over,” she warned. “We don’t know until the polls close on Tuesday night who’s going to win this race. We hope we’re going to win. We’re confident we’re going to win, but we need your help from now until Tuesday. What day is it? 12/08. Right?”
For one of his campaign stops, Khazei talked to voters at Angelo’s Orchid Diner, in New Bedford.
“You’ll get my vote,” one customer told him.
“Thank you, I appreciate that,” Khazei said. “You’re a good man. I can tell. I’m going to get in.”
“We gotta get jobs in this country,” told him another man.
“You know, I’m with you on that,” Khazei replied.
“Don’t bail out the rich guys,” the customer warned Khazei.
“I’m with you on that,” Khazei said. “Look, I was the first candidate in this race to say we need a jobs program. Everybody else was saying we need to study it.”
At Harvard Square on Sunday, as the morning sun melted the snow on the brick sidewalks, Pagliuca walked into his campaign headquarters.
“We’ve got a great field organization that’s going to be getting the gold out — vote out, and we’re all over the state,” he told reporters. “Got signs all over the state. The signs are being deployed. So hopefully we’ll get the momentum. I think people only really started to focus on this in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had 50 percent of the people undecided, and 25 percent leaning, so the whole electorate is up for grabs.”
And with that, he headed out into Harvard Square to greet his volunteers and, with his son carrying the Celtics championship trophy, boarded a bus for one last tour of the state to try to foil Coakley’s prediction of victory.