No consensus on Capuano-Pressley showdown

Hard to handicap race in unpredictable climate

YOU MIGHT AS well put a fork in Rep. Michael Capuano, whose long career is about to sunset in the face of a growing left-wing wave. Or is it getting to be desperation time for Ayanna Pressley, who will look to sudden lefty sensation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to give her underdog campaign a needed jolt of energy?

Both takes appear in columns in today’s Boston Herald, underscoring the uncertainty surrounding the closely watched Democratic primary matchup for Congress that some think may portend the leanings of the electorate nationally.

The former view comes from conservative columnist Michael Graham, who deploys more than one Godfather reference on the way to his conclusion that Capuano’s future as a congressman is “sleeping with the fishes.”

Graham appears to evince some sympathy for Capuano, an older white guy battling it out to survive in the era of multiculturalism run amok. But he seems to be as much snickering at Cap’s desperate lunge to the left, offering faux tears for the injustice of the veteran Somerville pol going “full socialist” only to get “stabbed in the back by your liberal family.” Sorry, Mike, he concludes, “it’s too late.”

Joe Battenfeld, meanwhile, still seems to see Pressley as the clear underdog. He points to a recent poll showing the Boston city councilor down by double digits, and says she desperately needs the sort of lift she may get from a campaign swing here on her behalf by Ocasio-Cortez, who upended another 20-year white male veteran Democratic congressman in a primary last month in New York.

He isn’t even overly wowed by yesterday’s endorsement of Pressley by Attorney General Maura Healey, calling it a “smaller boost” in comparison to the big endorsements that Pressley has failed to land.

But the standards aren’t really the same for a veteran incumbent and insurgent challenger. Capuano’s big endorsements — Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, former governor Deval Patrick, and others — as welcome as they are to his camp, are more dog-bites-man. Not only do established pols tend to rally around incumbents from their party, Walsh and Patrick both got Capuano’s backing in their runs for mayor and governor.

Healey’s nod to Pressley is a big deal for Pressley’s campaign. While it’s true, as Battenfeld writes, that it may not come with lots of organizational muscle, it could be an important signal to primary voters, many of whom seem truly conflicted about their choice.

Joan Vennochi doesn’t offer a clear handicapping of the race, but argues simply that the Healey endorsement is “another sign that the old-guard white male establishment that has controlled the Democratic power structure since forever is finally starting to crack.”

One humorous wrinkle in the Healey endorsement that has been noted: Rather than framing her backing entirely in lofty language about the need for sweeping change in Washington, Healey let people know it is her turn to return the favor to Pressley, who backed her primary campaign against party favorite Warren Tolman four years ago.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

“Ayanna stood by me and supported me in my first campaign, at a time very few elected leaders were willing to take a chance on an outsider candidate like me,” Healey tweeted.

Which led WGBH politics writer David Bernstein to remark on how candid liberal-leaning Massachusetts pols are about the “transactional nature” of their endorsements — whether it’s Walsh and Patrick supporting Capuano or Healey now backing Pressley.

In that way, though there may be a generational change of leadership afoot, getting rid of the old-guard doesn’t mean discarding the old-school ways, where one constant remains: You do for me, I’ll do for you.