It’s only February, and one of the campaigns for Congress has already begun.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley revved up a packed house at her campaign launch this week in Cambridge.
"Restaurants, bodegas, beauty salon and barbershop owners are left scratching their heads, wondering when government will wake up and realize they are just as important as the big corporations parachuting into this district," she said.
Pressley has a big challenge ahead. The first African-American woman on the Boston City Council is challenging a 10-term incumbent — Michael Capuano — with whom she agrees on most issues.
But Pressley supporters, such as Chelsea City Council President Damali Vidot, said it’s time for a change.
"It’s great that we have allies in Congress vote the right way and say the right thing, but I think at this time, in this political time, it’s important to have an advocate," Vidot said, "someone who’s going to stand up and know firsthand intimate experience — knows what it is that the community needs."
At this early point in race, the WBUR poll (topline results, crosstabs) shows the veteran congressman has the edge: 35 percent of likely Democratic voters say they support Pressley, while 47 percent favor Capuano.
David Marcus of Somerville appreciates Capuano’s experience as mayor of Somerville — and then for the past two decades in Congress.
"I get his weekly email newsletter where he explains how he’s voting and mentions other issues that are going on," Marcus said. "And it’s rather rare, I think, that I would have a significant disagreement with him."
The WBUR poll shows voters favor Capuano's experience in Congress. Nearly half say they prefer someone with experience in how Congress works.
And the lack of name recognition appears to be an early challenge for Pressley. One-third of the voters surveyed said they had never heard of her.
Capuano supporter David Marcus said he doesn't know much about Pressley. He's checked out her campaign website, and isn't particularly impressed.
"It seems to me the only reason she’s running against Capuano was her gender and her ethnic background and that she was new," Marcus said. "And just being new doesn’t seem like a good reason to run against someone who’s doing a good job."
Race might not matter to Marcus in the voting booth, but the WBUR poll of likely Democratic voters finds race will play at least some role for four in 10 voters — 14 percent say it will play a major role.
Roughly half of the 7th Congressional District's residents are white. Twenty-six percent are black, 21 percent are Latino, and the rest are Asian and other races.
Steve Koczela of The MassINC Polling Group conducted the poll.
He said with two popular leaders going against one another — both with progressive platforms — the poll shows the race factor could be front and center.
"It’s almost a mirror opposite, with 63 percent of white voters saying they’re supporting Capuano, and 64 percent of black voters saying they’re supporting Ayanna Pressley," Koczela said. "So whatever voters are telling you about how they’re making their decision, I think there's some evidence that [race] is playing a role."
The WBUR poll finds both candidates are more favored among the highly educated, and the highly paid.
Geography also has a role, Koczela said.
"Ayanna Presley is very popular among young voters, voters of color, also with an edge in the city of Boston itself," Koczela said. "So I think her challenge will be: can she get outside of Boston and do as well as she’s doing inside the city."
Capuano has previously depended heavily on Boston voters, who accounted for more than 60 percent of the votes he received two years ago.
This segment aired on February 15, 2018.