Black Leaders Reject Black Female Challenger In Boston
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

As Democrats finalize their primary election picks on who will do battle against Republican candidates in November, friction between local and national political black leaders may jeopardize what was supposed to be a unified front in the fight for seats congressional seats come November. On Saturday, inside the brick-lined walls of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston, Georgia’s Democratic Rep. John Lewis showed up to campaign for Rep. Michael E. Capuano, a white liberal Democrat, who is being challenged by Ayanna Pressley, a black progressive.

Pressley was the first woman of color to be elected to Boston’s City Council in its 108-year history. In fact, all members of the Congressional Caucus’ Political Action Committee endorsed Capuano over Pressley, according to The New York Times.

“People who have been around for awhile, they know their way around,” Lewis said. “They know where all the bodies are buried and they know how to get things done.”

Lewis’ case for Capuano: His experience, and seniority—which he said will be needed for Democrats’ fight against President Donald Trump, rather than the youthful energy of Pressley’s grassroots campaign. “It’s important to keep a leader, a fighter, and warrior like Mike Capuano around,” he said.

The Seventh Congressional District that is up for grabs stretches from Boston’s Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods to the communities of Cambridge and Somerville across the Charles River. It is the state’s only district where the majority of residents are not white and Mr. Capuano, who is white, has never faced a serious primary challenger in his 10-term tenure in Congress.

According to the New York Times, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of CBC’s political action committee said, “the group endorsed Mr. Capuano largely because of his longtime personal relationships with its members and his senior position on the House Financial Services Committee.” While he supports diversity in the House, Meeks said new candidates “should focus on unseating Republicans—not on defeating “a Democrat who has worked hard in the caucus.”

Local black politicians in Boston said they would have preferred the CBC follow Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey’s lead in staying neutral in the local race. Marie St. Fleur, a former state representative questioned the black caucus’s understanding of local issues. Bennie Wiley, a powerful civic leader in Massachusetts and supporter of Pressley said she was “disappointed, but not surprised.” Even Ministers at the Twelfth Baptist Church expressed concerns.

“For me, I kind of recoil and I know many leaders recoil at the idea that we’re supposed to sit back and wait our turn because someone else has voted within our interests,” Rev. Jeffrey Brown, an associate pastor who decided to skip the town hall, said.

Michael Capuano’s track record:

  • Introduced the most bills compared to Massachusetts Delegation: Capuano has introduced 22 bills and resolutions—the most bills compared to other legislators.
  • Got bicameral support on the fewest bills compared to Massachusetts Delegation: The House and Senate often work on the same issue simultaneously by introducing companion bills in each chamber. 0 of Capuano’s bills and resolutions had a companion bill in the Senate. Working with a sponsor in the other chamber makes a bill more likely to be passed by both the House and Senate.
  • Got the 3rd fewest cosponsors on their bills compared to Massachusetts Delegation: Capuano’s bills and resolutions had 88 cosponsors in 2017. Securing cosponsors is an important part of getting support for a bill, although having more cosponsors does not always mean a bill will get a vote
  • Got his bills out of committee the 3rd least often compared to Massachusetts Delegation: Most bills and resolutions languish in committee without any action. Capuano introduced 1 bill in 2017 that got past committee and to the floor for consideration.
  • Was 18th most present in votes compared to Serving 10+ Years: Capuano missed 0.7% of votes (5 of 710 votes) in 2017
  • Ranked 95th most liberal compared to All Representatives
  • Powerful Cosponsors: 1 of Capuano’s bills and resolutions in 2017 had a cosponsor who was a chair or ranking member of a committee that the bill was referred to. Getting support from committee leaders on relevant committees is a crucial step in moving legislation forward.
  • Committee Positions: Capuano held a leadership position on 0 committees and 1 subcommittee, as either a chair (majority party) or ranking member (minority party), at the end of the session.
  • Joining Bipartisan Bills: Capuano cosponsored 249 bills and resolutions introduced by other Members of Congress. Cosponsorship shows a willingness to work with others to advance policy goals.
  • Government Transparency: GovTrack looked at whether Capuano supported any of 21 government transparency, accountability, and effectiveness bills in the House that we identified in this session. We gave Capuano 0 points, based on one point for cosponsoring and three points for sponsoring any of these bills.
  • Laws Enacted: Capuano introduced 0 bills that became law, including via incorporation into other measures, in 2017. Keep in mind that it takes a law to repeal a law. Very few bills ever become law.
  • Writing Bipartisan Bills: Capuano tends to gather cosponsors only on one side of the aisle. 6 of Capuano’s 22 bills and resolutions had both a Democratic cosponsor and a Republican cosponsor in 2017.

 

All data is gathered from GovTrack.us, a website that tracks the United States Congress.

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Adedamola Agboola

Adedamola Agboola is a digital reporter at Black Enterprise Magazine. Previously, he was a multimedia reporter for Blank Slate Media covering the villages Roslyn and Manhasset for the Manhasset Times and Roslyn Times. Before that, he was a reporter with Norwood News, a biweekly community newspaper covering the neighborhoods of Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham and University Heights. He is from Nigeria.


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