By John Lynds
All signs are pointing to U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano throwing his hat into the race for Senator Ted Kennedy’s vacant seat.
On Tuesday, Capuano pulled nomination papers, and he has been busy making phone calls to friends, political allies and confidants across the state, trying to garner support or gauge his chances for a win.
“I obtained nomination papers for the vacant U.S. Senate seat as the next step toward making a decision regarding candidacy. I will make a formal announcement next week,” said Capuano during a phone interview with the East Boston Times on Tuesday. “Bottom line is I’ve looked at it, done my own personal gut check and found that I have the fire in my belly to run for the seat, and now it’s time to see if it can be done.”
No politician wants to run for a seat he or she can’t win, and Capuano is no different.
“I’ve been making tons of phone calls, and not to people that are my closest friends, but to people who are going to tell me whether or not I’ve got what it takes,” said Capuano. “One of the big things for me is to ask myself, ‘Am I the man that voters are going to look at as the person to carry on a liberal legacy in the Senate?’”
Before we spoke with the congressman, in a statement Capuano released early Tuesday, he said he believes that the voters of Massachusetts want to continue the progressive ideals that Senator Kennedy fought for during his decades of service. No other candidate being mentioned or already announced, said Capuano, more closely mirrors Kennedy’s positions on important issues of war and peace.
“I’m a fairly progressive street Democrat that is in the best position to carry on Senator Kennedy’s work,” said Capuano. “We are going to have an election 90 days from now, and I think it’ll be a very low voter turnout in December, but the people that do go to the polls and vote that day will be people that pay attention to the issues. I think those people will look to a Democrat like myself to keep the fight going in the Senate for progressive causes.”
Capuano is a lifelong resident of Somerville and attended Somerville High School, graduating in 1969. In 1973, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Dartmouth College and in 1977, a law degree from B.C. Law School.
Serving the same seat his father once held, Capuano served as alderman for Ward Five in Somerville from 1976 to 1979. Later, he became an alderman-at-large, holding the position for two terms (1985 to 1989). Capuano then went on to become mayor of Somerville from January 1990 through December 1998.
Capuano was elected to Congress in 1998, succeeding fellow Democrat Joseph Kennedy II, who announced he wouldn’t run for his uncle’s Senatorial seat.
Capuano has been reelected five times, all unopposed in what has long been considered one of the safest Democratic districts in the nation, as well as the most Democratic district in New England. He was most recently re-elected in 2008.
Along with being a member of the House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure and the House Committee of Financial Services, Capuano also serves on the House Democratic Leadership team as a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
Capuano is considered to be one of the biggest supporters in Congress for increasing international aid funding. He has become a voice for victims of the crisis in the Sudan and has secured new funding bills aimed at assisting poor African nations.
Capuano’s colleague in the House, Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), has also been touted as a possible candidate for the seat.
Upon hearing that Capuano announced he had pulled his nomination papers, Markey said, “As the most senior member of the Massachusetts and New England House delegations and as the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, I now must weigh where I can make the greatest impact on the issues facing the people of Massachusetts.”
Capuano, who is 57 years old, is married, has two children and lives in Somerville.