Congressman Capuano talks with The News about his campaign for Senate. ~Photo by Tom Nash
to the polls, Somerville native Michael Capuano faces long odds in next
Tuesday's primary election for the U.S. Senate, which will pare four
Democratic candidates down to one. In the days leading up to Dec. 8,
however, Capuano says he is not looking to clean up his image as a
"Poll numbers have never shown me favorably, ever,"
Capuano said during a recent visit to The Somerville News office. "I've
always run my campaigns the same way. I am who I am, and I tell people
who I am."
Capuano is running for the seat left vacant after the
death of Senator Ted Kennedy in August. He is in second place in a Nov.
24 Rasmussen poll, trailing Attorney General Martha Coakley by 15
He has grown accustomed to the role of the underdog. He
was first elected mayor of Somerville after a highly-contested race in
1989 against the recently imprisoned former Alderman John Buonomo. He
went on to defeat former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn in 1998 for the U.S.
House of Representatives seat vacated by Joe Kennedy, where he has
Capuano said that since his first city-wide race,
he has faced the same questions about his ability to understand issues
that affect diverse constituencies.
"Western Mass. expresses
repeatedly that they feel forgotten by a lot of people in statewide
politics," Capuano said of his experience hosting "Open Mike:" sessions
across the state. "I explained to them: my whole life I've represented
people who feel forgotten.
"I tell them the story of the first
time I ran city-wide. The first questions I got were from people in
East Somerville, asking, 'How could you possibly represent us? You come
all the way from Winter Hill.'"
Ultimately, however, Capuano
stressed that the issues at play on Capitol Hill affect all residents
of Massachusetts in largely the same way.
"The only real reason
for me to go to the Senate is that in a smaller body, an individual
member has greater opportunity to impact the issues that they care
about," he said. "The issues are the same."
His local base -
which encompasses three-quarters of Boston along with Cambridge,
Somerville, and Chelsea - may be his biggest disadvantage in the Senate
race, said Maurice Cunningham, an assistant professor of political
science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
a state-wide base," Cunningham said. "Capuano has a base of a tenth of
the state. In a short race like this, it's quite hard to overcome that."