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Capuano: I Understand Voter Anger, Welcome Challengers08:53
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U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano addresses supporters before he lost to Attorney General Martha Coakley in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat on Dec. 8, 2009. (AP)
U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano addresses supporters before he lost to Attorney General Martha Coakley in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat on Dec. 8, 2009. (AP)

Scott Brown's victory in Tuesday's special Senate election may spark a surge in Republican congressional candidates this fall.

While Republican strategists say the state's all-Democratic delegation is vulnerable because of Brown's strong showing in their districts, Rep. Michael Capuano is not worried.

"I've never had a problem with anybody running against me," said Capuano (D-Somerville) on WBUR's Morning Edition.

"When you start running against a person who has an established relationship with the voters of their district or city or state — if they have an established relationship and they work that relationship — it's awfully hard to knock somebody out who's perceived by most people to be doing their job."

In December, Capuano lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to Attorney General Martha Coakley, who went on to lose the general election to Brown. Many observers say Capuano's fighting style would have fared well against Brown.

"If Republicans want to come and have an election, for me, personally, I wouldn't mind it. Come and get it. I've never shied away from a tough election."

Nevertheless, Capuano said he recognizes the significance of Brown's upset.

"I think it's a wake-up call for anybody in elected office," Capuano said. "During the (primary) campaign, I tried to express the fact that I believed that the average voter was pretty angry in general.

"I think we need to let Mr. Brown have an opportunity to prove himself, to prove whether he is the independent he claims to be or whether he's a lockstep Republican."
--U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville)"They happen to be angry at Democrats at the moment because Democrats are the ones in charge. They were angry at Republicans last time, which is what helped propel Mr. Obama to the White House and give the Democrats sizable majorities in both branches."

Capuano said people in Massachusetts are angry about the continued shortage of jobs, a year after President Obama took office and pledged to heal the economy. The state's unemployment rate jumped to 9.4 percent last month.

Capuano took issue with Democratic priorities. "I've had my own concerns with my caucus for a while now. For instance, I've been arguing since the stimulus that we needed to focus on the creation of more jobs."

He also said some Democrats may be out of touch with the worries of their constituencies. "I'm a Democrat, and I think my first job is to make sure I've heard (the anger), and I think I have. My second job is to make the people feel that I'm fighting for them."

Political watchers have already begun talk of Capuano mounting a challenge for Brown's Senate seat in 2012, but Capuano laughed off that idea.

"I have never in my life had the luxury of planning my political career three years in advance. I think we need to let Mr. Brown have an opportunity to prove himself, to prove whether he is the independent he claims to be or whether he's a lockstep Republican or something in between. I hope he's a great senator for Massachusetts."

Capuano said he remains confident that some version of health care reform will get passed, but he conceded that the overhaul may have to take a simpler form.


This program aired on January 21, 2010.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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