After a telescoped campaign, Massachusetts Democrats go to the polls Tuesday to choose a successor to a legend, Ted Kennedy. In this race, the Boston Phoenix endorses Michael Capuano as the candidate best prepared to represent the commonwealth — and our progressive values — in the United States Senate.
On the key issues facing the nation and Massachusetts, Capuano takes the right approach. He has battled for progressive health-care reform. He favors strong financial regulation. He has an aggressive and comprehensive approach to environmental and energy issues. He has been a strong advocate for easing access to higher education, recently voting for expansion of the government's Direct Loan Program. He wants immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship. And he is skeptical of the Afghanistan surge.
Most of these issues will come before the Senate next year. Capuano not only will provide the right vote, but, with his experience and knowledge, will be able to help shape the legislation that emerges.
Capuano arrives at this juncture after two distinct and impressive stints in public office.
First, as a five-term mayor of Somerville, Capuano transformed what had been a city in decline: he rooted out corruption, improved the schools, developed parkland, and invested in neighborhoods.
In his 11 years as a US congressman, Capuano has been a stalwart voice for liberal values, including a woman's right to choose and opposition to the death penalty. More important, he has stood firm for principles when others did not — notably, by voting against the Iraq War authorization and against the liberty-infringing PATRIOT Act.
He understands — as Kennedy did — that legislating is a group project, and that liberal ideals are sometimes realized in increments. In his role within House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's inner circle, Capuano has helped steer important legislation, including the current health-care-reform bill.
Capuano also has continued to aid his home district, through constituent services, earmarks for local industries, and by securing important funds for state transportation projects.
This is the way Kennedy represented Massachusetts. It worked.
But, while Capuano may be following the Kennedy playbook, he has his own style. His priorities and outrage at injustice — which some have criticized as anger, but we see as passion — come from his working-class Somerville upbringing. The Senate will be well-served by those qualities.
The three other candidates — Attorney General Martha Coakley, community-activism entrepreneur Alan Khazei, and businessman Steve Pagliuca — have much to offer. None of them, however, would bring to the Senate Capuano's combination of values, skill, and experience. Capuano is the best candidate for the job, and we urge you to cast your vote for him next Tuesday.
Obama gets it wrong
By the time President Barack Obama's Afghanistan escalation is complete in midyear 2010, the number of boots on the ground in that hellhole will have doubled during his still-brief tenure to more than 100,000.
Nobody should be shocked. Obama was clear during the campaign that he thought Iraq a mistake and Afghanistan a missed opportunity. He pledged to withdraw from the former in order to focus on the latter. And this, unfortunately, is one promise Obama is determined to keep.