A campaign that may be all about nuance

The Wynn controversy highlights differences between Capuano and Pressley

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

ON THE  BANKS of the Mystic River, workers have been building a structure envisioned by Steve Wynn, the casino magnate who recently relinquished control of his global resort empire after the Wall Street Journal reported he pressured employees into sex.

The jobs stemming from the site are the foremost concern for Congressman Michael Capuano, while his challenger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley says her “first thought” is with the victims of Wynn’s allegedly predatory behavior.

The $2.4 billion casino project has cleaned up land that once housed a chemical plant, and construction was projected to generate 4,000 jobs with another 4,000 jobs supported by the resort once it opens.

“Everything they do from this point forward has to have an eye towards those jobs as far as I’m concerned,” Capuano told reporters Tuesday. He said, “Simply closing it down is not an answer.” He said he was “glad” that Wynn had stepped down.

Differences between the Somerville incumbent and his Democratic primary challenger over the newly controversial casino project may boil down to variations in tone and emphasis rather than substantive disagreements about what should happen.

“From the beginning, I have never been a fan of gaming as an economic development strategy, however, there are many workers who did nothing wrong that stand to lose their livelihood without development on that site, not to mention the permanent jobs,” Pressley said in a statement to the News Service. She continued, “Regardless of what happens with the site, whether it becomes a casino or larger mixed development, I will continue to advocate for the mitigation funds to create real, concrete job training pipelines for permanent jobs on site and within the district.”

The billionaire who won the Greater Boston casino license stepped down from his company this month after previously giving up his finance chairmanship of the Republican National Committee following the Journal report that documented his alleged “decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct.”

Wynn denied the accusations levied against him, telling the Journal, “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”

The Gaming Commission, which controls the license for Wynn Boston Harbor, is continuing to investigate, and already determined that the company did not disclose a $7.5 million settlement the magnate paid a manicurist to resolve a sexual harassment allegation.

“A central question is, what did the board of directors and staff know and when did they know it, about the settlement and the associated allegations,” said Gaming Commission Chairman Crosby.

“I’m glad that he stepped down,” Capuano said. If the “entire company is tainted” or the board covered up Wynn’s alleged sexual misbehavior it would be appropriate for the Gaming Commission to move the license away from the company, he said.

“If the entire board has been implicated in this wrongdoing, that is a real serious problem and I think that the state should take action,” Capuano said, cautioning that the commission “cannot just walk away and leave a half-built structure and thousands of jobs on the table,” and adding, “I don’t think they would.”

Jobs at the site are the “main thing I’m focused on,” the former Somerville mayor told reporters before addressing the New England Council on Tuesday.

“Once they complete that investigation, take any action they decide to take, I really think they owe it to the people of Massachusetts to then answer: What are we going to do with a half-built building? And what are we going to do with all the jobs that are there currently in construction work and the jobs that were promised to us after the building opens?” Capuano said. “It doesn’t mean it can’t be answered. It just means I hope that they take it into consideration as they make these decisions.”

Drawings of the complex under construction show the billionaire’s signature near the top of the building.

Capuano presumes Wynn will change its name, he said. Pressley said no matter what happens the building should no longer showcase the brand name.

“If the Gaming Commission does decide to keep this casino, under no circumstances should the Wynn name be emblazoned on its facade,” Pressley said. “It sends the message to survivors that fame and power are more important than them and their healing.”

A Dorchester Democrat who became the first black woman elected to the City Council in 2009, Pressley said the victims are her chief concern.

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“As with any revelation about sexual assault and harassment, my first thought is of the victims. I hope they have reached out for the support and healing they deserve from local advocacy organizations such as [Boston Area Rape Crisis Center] here in Greater Boston,” Pressley said. “I think it was appropriate for Steve Wynn to step down — but I remain concerned that even with Wynn stepping down, he still wields influence over the Wynn company and their internal procedures.”

Michael P. Norton contributed to this story.