Metro

Race, gender put forward as key issues in Boston congressional race

Representative Michael Capuano said Thursday that identity — whether it’s race or gender or ethnicity — is only one part of what drives a voter’s choice.
Steven Senne/Associated Press
Representative Michael Capuano said Thursday that identity — whether it’s race or gender or ethnicity — is only one part of what drives a voter’s choice.

In the two-day-old congressional race between a black woman and a white man in the Boston-anchored Seventh District, identity politics were already taking center stage Thursday.

In a radio interview, City Councilor Ayanna Pressley repeatedly declined to offer any issues on which she disagrees with her Democratic primary opponent, incumbent Congressman Michael E. Capuano.

But in the appearance on WBUR-FM’s “Radio Boston,” she emphasized she would bring a different perspective to Washington.

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“Are you saying that different lens comes because you’re an African-American woman?” host Meghna Chakrabarti asked.

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“Of course,” Pressley replied.

“Is it about being a different gender and a different race?” the host pressed.

“Everyone has their own authentic and unique lens. When you have issues that are being developed through a completely monolithic and homogenized prism, everyone suffers for that,” the 43-year-old Dorchester resident replied. (Not one of the 11 members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation is black or Hispanic.)

Pressley said if we are being honest, “the issues that we are grappling with right now, although complex and pervasive and persistent and . . . nagging and growing and every other dark adjective I can bring up, they’re not new. So if the issues aren’t new, the only thing we can change is the approach and the lens.”

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Capuano, a Somerville resident who was first elected in 1998, pushed back in a subsequent interview on the public radio program. He said identity — whether it’s race or gender or ethnicity — is only one part of what drives a voter’s choice. Further, the 66-year-old said he and Pressley would probably vote “the exact same way” on just about every matter before the House of Representatives.

Chakrabarti asked how he would respond to people in his district who are taking a longer view and think that the delegation needs a woman of color.

“Look, I cannot be a woman of color. You know?” replied Capuano, half-Irish and half-Italian. “And, if that’s what people care about, well, that’s fine. I accept that. I understand that. I just don’t think there are that many people who will vote for me because I’m a white male, or vote against me because I’m a white male.”

Bigger factors for voters, he said, are what a representative can do for them and their family, and where they stand on the issues.

Ayanna Pressley has indicated she will focus on issues like income inequality, systemic racism, and lack of economic opportunity.
Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe
Ayanna Pressley has indicated she will focus on issues like income inequality, systemic racism, and lack of economic opportunity.

In the interview with Pressley — who has indicated she will focus on issues like income inequality, systemic racism, and lack of economic opportunity — Chakrabarti asked several different ways about where Capuano might have fallen short and why he might not deserve reelection.

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Pressley did not directly answer those questions. But she did say that, “We should not define leadership by the binary definition of simply how one votes.”

The Democratic primary will be held Sept. 4, and the victor of the Seventh District primary is almost certain to win November’s general election.

The heavily Democratic district — Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, half of Cambridge, one-third of Milton, and the majority of Boston — had a 56 percent minority population when it was drawn by the Legislature for the 2012 election. It is the state’s only congressional district where the majority of residents are minorities, a term that includes people who are black, Asian, and nonwhite Hispanic.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.