Capuano, Pressley Make Final Push For Votes In 7th District

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U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and his Democratic challenger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley (Robin Lubbock, Jesse Costa/WBUR)
U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and his Democratic challenger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley (Robin Lubbock, Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With just days to go before the state primary election, the race for the 7th Congressional District has been heating up and attracting national attention.

It pits 10-term Congressman Michael Capuano's record of experience in Washington against Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley's pitch that it is time for new leadership within the Democratic Party.

Earlier this week, Pressley brought her campaign to a church in Mattapan, from where a group of senior citizens were about to head off on a Boston Harbor cruise.

"I want you all to think of this as the Love Boat,” Pressley told the audience of mostly African-Americans, many of whom wore Pressley campaign buttons and carried Pressley-for-Congress tote bags.

“I want you to feel the love, and I want you to share the love because these are challenging times,” Pressley said.

Pressley's challenge is to convince voters across a district that includes most of Boston, and about half of Cambridge and Milton, as well as the cities of Chelsea, Everett, Randolph and Somerville, to vote a popular progressive out of Congress.

"This is something unusual: Voters are not used to having a choice,”she said. “They haven't had a choice for this congressional seat for a generation, for 20 years."

Pressley acknowledges that she and Capuano would vote the same way on most, if not all, issues. But she casts herself as the movement-building candidate of change. She's the first woman of color elected to the city council, and argues that she has the perspective to represent the state's only majority-minority district, where there is also deep economic inequality. She says her opponent has not done enough.

"Having a progressive voting record in the most progressive seat in the country is not a profile in courage,” Pressley said. “I think a lot of the work begins after that vote. It doesn't end there."

Pressely’s supporters are excited by her message.

“We desperately need change,” said Geraldine Adams of Dorchester. Her friend and neighbor, Joyce Harvey, agrees, and says Pressley will focus on issues that matter to this community, including gun violence, domestic abuse and women's rights.

“[Capuano and Pressley] are both progressives, but I think Ayanna understands our neighborhood better. She's a female, she's younger, [and] she will relate better to those things that definitely affect us,” Harvey said.

For his part, Capuano rejects Pressley's argument that she can better represent this increasingly diverse district.

"I was raised in this district as well,” he said.

Capuano argues that if the Democrats retake the House in November, his seniority will give him significant clout.

"This campaign should be about what can you do for this district and for this country tomorrow once we get elected," he said. "And in this particular race I don't think anybody can match my long term record."

If Pressley is running on change, Capuano is running on his record and long experience.


Earlier this week, on a hot, muggy evening, Capuano rallied supporters in Oak Square in Brighton. He was joined by fellow Congressman Joe Kennedy III, whose great uncle, John F. Kennedy, once represented this district. Kennedy says in Capuano's case, experience matters.

“He knows how … when the party is in the minority … to leverage relationships with Republicans to still be able to deliver for the people of Boston and the commonwealth of Massachusetts. And he's a good guy,” Kennedy told a small crowd of supporters.

Capuano argues that his record includes securing federal dollars to expand affordable housing, community health centers and public transportation in Boston.

"He doesn't do it for newspaper articles or headlines; he does it because he wants to improve the lives of everyone in this community,” said Tim Garvin, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Massachusetts. Garvin used to run the YMCA in Oak Square in Brighton, and he credits Capuano for securing the federal money to help build it.

"It's the first YMCA in the country for people of all abilities and disabilities so everyone could use it,” Garvin said. “It mattered to him, it mattered to me, and he got it done."

Capuano has a few more days to make the case that a 20-year record like that matters. Pressley will argue she represents change, a new voice and a choice.

Both of them are trying to win over voters like Marilyn Foreman of Dorchester.

"I know Capuano for so long, and I think he's always done really great work,” Foreman said. “But I usually feel like it's time for change after a certain amount of years, but I'm just kind of on the fence."

Foreman says she will spend this weekend reading up on the race and decide which side of the fence she'll end up on. Voters like her could make the decisive difference in the race for the 7th Congressional District.

This segment aired on August 31, 2018.


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Anthony Brooks Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.



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