Enter, stage left – Capuano positions himself as the natural successor to Kennedy

Relying on his liberal stance on most issues and ability to maneuver the halls of Capitol Hill, U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano officially announced his candidacy for Massachusetts’ open U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

In a speech that was delivered at the Omni Parker House in Boston, the same place John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for Congress in 1946, Capuano asked voters to consider an important question: “The most crucial question before voters in this election is will the people of Massachusetts continue on the progressive path blazed by Senator Kennedy, or will we trim our sails, shift direction, and follow a more cautious and conservative course?”
Capuano said the question isn’t whether any of us can truly replace Ted Kennedy but which candidate has the passion, the will, and the skills to best continue his work.

Capuano now joins Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca in the race for the Democratic nomination. Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year and another candidate who would align himself with liberal causes, said he’d announce next week.

Capuano was introduced by fellow U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, who offered his endorsement.

“I cannot think of anything the United States Senate needs more than a strong dose of the commitment, energy and appropriate skepticism of established traditions that Mike Capuano has shown in his 10 years in the House,” said Frank.

In his remarks, Capuano pointed out, “No other candidate has a record that more closely mirrors Ted Kennedy’s positions on the most critical issues facing our nation and our state, issues of war and peace, healthcare and the economy, justice and equality.”
Capuano also raised the issue of who was best prepared through legislative experience to secure the vital federal funding needed to boost our state’s weakened economy.

“The other, perhaps less lofty and more practical, question voters face is will we be better off sending a newcomer to the Senate who needs on-the-job-training or a proven legislative leader who knows how to get the job done in Washington and help constituents in Massachusetts?” said Capuano.

While Capuano trails Coakley by a large margin, according to a recent Suffolk University poll, he’s a political street fighter who loves a good battle. In 1998, when he ran and won his bid for the 8th Congressional seat held by Joseph P. Kennedy III, Capuano was outspent by the nine other opponents but was able to out maneuver them politically and ultimately win. Many political pundits had counted Capuano out at the time.

Capuano said his lengthy legislative and executive experience has prepared him well to serve the residents of Massachusetts. He is serving his sixth term in Congress and is a former five-term Somerville mayor, widely credited with revitalizing the city.

Capuano voted against the Iraq war and is an outspoken opponent of it. He also opposed the PATRIOT Act because of concerns he had over civil liberties.

While in the House, Capuano has demonstrated an ability to work with members on both sides of the aisle. Recognizing this quality, Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Capuano to oversee the transition as Democrats prepared for a majority role. Pelosi also named Capuano to chair her bipartisan Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement. His efforts resulted in the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics, marking the first time in the history of the House that an independent perspective was brought to ethics matters.

In his first TV spot of his campaign that aired last week on youtube, Capuano strongly supports a public health insurance option, a woman’s right to choose, and equal marriage. He opposes the death penalty and has succeeded in bringing home substantial federal dollars for many worthy projects, including record federal funding for Massachusetts’ road and transit projects.

That ad can be viewed at www.youtube.com.

“In this introductory spot, we tell voters about Congressman Capuano’s credentials and his accomplishments, and acquaint them with the fact that he is the candidate who most closely mirrors Senator Kennedy’s record on the important issues of our time,” said media consultant Michael Shea of Shea & Associates.

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