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Capuano Says Voters Want Policy Substance Over Identity Politics06:48
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U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano at WBUR (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano at WBUR (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
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Michael Capuano has represented the 7th Congressional District in Massachusetts since 1999.

Now he’s being challenged by fellow Boston Democrat Ayanna Pressley, whose bid has garnered national attention in a year when younger women, minority and LGBTQ candidates are taking on the old Democratic guard around the country.

Capuano told WBUR about the need for more unity in the Democratic Party and why he’s better prepared to continue the fight in Washington on behalf of his constituents and against Donald Trump.

Read some of the highlights below: 

The following has been lightly edited.

Bob Oakes: You're a 10-term incumbent facing your first major challenge from within your own party. Some are calling it a race for the soul of the Democratic Party. I'm wondering how you see it.

Michael Capuano: The only people I’ve heard call it that are people in my opponent’s camp. I think this is a race to determine what kind of member of Congress this particular district wants. My opponent has said repeatedly that she would vote the same way I would vote. So it really boils down to what I see as a race about who can get more done for the district. I would argue obviously that my record proves that I can be more effective and that I have been more effective.

What do you make of the identity politics at play in this race — a 66-year-old white male running against a younger black woman?

I don't. That's an issue that comes up when the media asks me the question. I never get that from non-media folks, from constituents … I just don't think that many people vote along those lines one way or the other. Some do, I know that. But I just think the average person wants the best possible candidate.

You’ve said internal fighting on the left is a big problem for Democrats, so how do you walk the line between reform and unity?

If you're going to have a difference of opinion, I think the difference of opinion should be on a matter of substance. So someone should be able to come in and say, “Well, I'm for this and my opponent is not.” That has not happened in this case—virtually at all. And it diverts resources at this time, when in the normal course of events I'd be spending a lot of time and a fair amount of money trying to get Democrats around the country elected … Sept. 5th, win or lose, I’m going to be busy trying to get other Democrats elected, because no member of Congress can get anything done on their own.

You’ve said you'd back impeachment hearings for President Trump but I'm wondering after the recent convictions or guilty pleas by Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen if it’s time for Democrats to press harder?

Every day that goes by I think there's more proof that the Congress should be doing its job in having these hearings. Again, I will not convict someone on the basis of media reports, but you can't ignore them either. And this is more than media reports — these are now people pleading guilty in a court of law. And I do believe that this president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors but that's just an initial opinion that would be subject to whether we could actually prove it. I suspect that we could, but I still would not make a final decision until after the hearings.

Capuano on infrastructure: When I say infrastructure it's not just roads and bridges and subways — it's also housing. It's also schools and fire departments and water departments and sewer departments. That's all infrastructure and it's all important. Little by little this country is crumbling and everyone knows it. And I think that we need to step up and do what I think this country wants us to do well.  

Capuano on gun control: Speaker Paul Ryan has not allowed those bills to go to the floor because he knows some Republicans would vote for them. And I do believe that we could get those bills through the House [with a Democratic majority]. Now whether they get through the Senate [or the president] I don't know. But I'd like to put them on record if nothing else to let the American people know how radical some members might be.

This segment aired on August 28, 2018.

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