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Capuano, Pressley debate at UMass

Pressley says she brings a different lens, Capuano cites D.C. experience

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990 and has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Capuano, Pressley debate at UMass
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano debate for the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District seat at UMass Boston. Photo: Kahrim Wade

Despite near-identical stances on numerous issues, at a recent event, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and at-large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley delineated differences in their leadership style and approach to the issues facing the people of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District.

Facing off August 7 at UMass Boston in a debate sponsored by WBUR and the Boston Globe, the two candidates sounded different themes in their opening remarks.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano makes a point during a debate with City Councilor Ayanna Pressley sponsored by WBUR and the Boston Globe. Photo: Kahrim Wade

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano makes a point during a debate with City Councilor Ayanna Pressley sponsored by WBUR and the Boston Globe. Photo: Kahrim Wade

Capuano stressed his role in fighting the policies advanced by the administration of Donald Trump.

“We are in the fight of our lives,” he said. “He’s threatening everything we care about.”

He cited his efforts to protect abortion, Social Security, Medicare and health care.

“With my experience and my know-how, we can and will do more,” he said.

Pressley, who has served on the city council for eight years, spoke of her commitment to social justice issues.

“I have dedicated my life to addressing issues of income inequality, the wealth and wage gap, structural racism and gun violence — all issues worsening and deepening under our current administration,” she said.

The opening statements underscored key differences between the candidates. During recent debates, Capuano, who has served in Congress for 20 years, has cited his record in office, including funding he has secured for public transit projects, public housing and community health centers.

Pressley, as a city councilor, has had far less opportunity to secure resources under Boston’s strong-mayor system of government. She has cited as her chief accomplishments securing liquor licenses for restaurants in the city’s lower-income commercial centers and her advocacy on behalf of people of color seeking licenses and to have sex education taught in Boston’s schools.

At the federal level, Pressley said she would tackle the economic disparities in the 7th Congressional District, which, she noted, existed before Trump took office.

“I will be a visionary leader focused on undoing those disparate outcomes throughout the district,” she said.

Capuano, who would likely be appointed to a committee chairmanship if Democrats wrest control of the House from Republicans in the midterm elections, said his experience in Congress makes him better able to secure resources for the district.

“It wasn’t a vote that brought money back here to Ruggles Station,” he said. “It wasn’t a vote that rebuilt all of the community health centers. That’s advocacy. Knowing how to get things done.”

Identity politics?

Throughout the campaign, Pressley has been pushing back on Capuano’s contention that there are no major differences between the two candidates by asserting that she would bring a different lens to leadership in the 7th Congressional District.

“We will vote the same way, but we will lead differently,” she said.

Pressley said her identity would inform the issues that she spotlights, and the solutions she advocates.

“You cannot have a government for and by the people if it is not representative of all the people.”

Capuano, who earlier in the campaign cited his record of fighting for the rights of communities in the district, noted his endorsements from black and Latino colleagues, including U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Luis Gutierrez.

“I certainly agree that race does matter, as does gender, as does gender identity,” he said. “That’s why we fight so hard for civil rights and human rights — to make sure society embraces differences among us.”

Asked how she would push back on the Trump administration’s policies, Pressley said her campaign had organized a phone bank to pressure senators to block the nomination of conservative Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Closing statements

In his closing statement, Capuano underscored his experience in Washington as a major asset.

“This particular race is about electing the person who can be most effective for this district, because we do generally agree,” he said. “And if you want someone who knows how to get things done and who can be successful against Donald Trump’s agenda, I ask for your vote.”

Pressley said she has the credentials to lead the district into a more progressive future.

“We have a choice,” she said. “We’re at a crossroads and this can go down as the darkest, most draconian time in our history, or together we can usher in the most inclusive, progressive change-making movement in our history.”

She described the 7th Congressional District as a “dark blue” seat that affords its representative the leeway to be forward-thinking.

“You know what that means,” she said. “That we can bold, that we can be unrestrained, that we can be innovative, that we can be unencumbered.”

End game

With less than three weeks before the Sept. 4 primary, Pressley and Capuano’s campaigns are running full tilt. A recent WBUR poll found Capuano leading Pressley by 13 percentage points, indicating not much has changed since February, when Capuano showed a 12-point lead.

The WBUR poll, released Aug. 2, showed Capuano leading among whites and older voters, the demographic most likely to vote in the Sept. 4 primary. Among voters of color, Pressley led Capuano 49 percent to 31 percent.

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