Capuano Entering Race to Succeed Kennedy in Senate
September 16, 2009 - 11:54 AMU.S. Rep. Michael Capuano said Wednesday he will run for the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat, arguing he is the best candidate to continue his fellow Democrat's liberal philosophical tradition and better tested in the national political arena than leading rival Martha Coakley.
The blunt, plainspoken former mayor of Somerville said he plans to formally declare his candidacy at an event on Friday and then pursue a vigorous campaign before the Dec. 8 primary. The special election to succeed Kennedy, who died Aug. 25 of brain cancer, will be on Jan. 19.
"When it comes to the issues we deal with here in Washington, I have no idea where she stands on the war in Iraq," Capuano said of Coakley, the state's attorney general and the first Democrat to declare her candidacy for Kennedy's seat.
"She says she's for health care, but I don't know what that means. We've been dealing with those issues for years. And is there any history of her being able to work with a large body of legislators? No, there is a history of her being able to manage an office, but this is different."
The six-term congressman added: "Why leave it to a question, when there's somebody in the race who has proven they can do it over a long period of time?"
A Coakley spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Capuano, 57, combines old-line Democratic values like party loyalty with the more liberal leanings of Cambridge and Harvard Square, which help anchor his suburban Boston district.
He has blue-collar roots in Somerville's wards but an Ivy League pedigree after attending Dartmouth College.
His seat is steeped in history. Boston's roguish ex-mayor James Michael Curley, President John F. Kennedy, former House Speaker Thomas P. 'Tip' O'Neill and former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II once held it.
Capuano succeeded Kennedy in 1999.
Capuano has made his mark in Congress serving on the House Financial Services and Transportation committees. He's also been active fighting liberal causes such as the turmoil in Sudan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped him to head a congressional task force on ethics, and to lead the transition when Democrats regained control of the House in 2006.
During the interview, Capuano said he wanted to move from the lower to upper chamber of Congress because it promised even more influence. He often laments he made more decisions in a morning as mayor than he does in a year as a member of Congress.
"I know being 1 out of 100, you can have more impact - more quickly - than being 1 out of 435," he said. "I got involved in politics originally to make the world a better place. When I was mayor, it was about making Somerville safer. ... When I came to Congress, it was about housing, health care, war and peace, civil liberties. In the Senate, the issues will be same but the interference will be less."
He said he would have used such added clout to more effectively push the Obama administration for a federal stimulus bill more focused on job creation, while fighting the Bush administration over the Patriot Act.
As he was with Coakley, Capuano was laudatory about the personal attributes of other potential rivals, even as he dissected them.
Of Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca, who is considering running for the Democratic nomination, he said: "I really, really, really think that it is incomprehensible to me that the Massachusetts Democratic party would nominate someone who supported Mitt Romney against Ted Kennedy (in 1994). He's entitled to do that, but I would be shocked."
And he joked that he could be more successful, if less flattering, than state Sen. Scott Brown. The Republican candidate and former model woke up Wednesday to find a 1980s seminude photo of himself on the Boston Herald's gossip page.
"He probably looks better in underwear than me - nor do I expect to find out," Capuano said.
Associated Press Writer Andrew Miga contributed to this report.
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