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Capuano suggests voter anger came from young people who ‘don’t have a clue what happened yesterday’

Michael Capuano.
Michael Capuano. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Outgoing Congressman Michael Capuano is suggesting young voters were taking a short-term view when they went to the polls in September and elected his Democratic primary challenger, Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley.

In an interview that aired on WBUR Tuesday morning, Capuano told host Bob Oakes he would not run for elected office again and reflected on the outcome of the 2018 midterm primary race.

Asked whether he was a target of voter anger in the run-up to the September primary, Capuano was dismissive.

“It’s not me, it’s whoever was in office in a place that has progressives, that has a lot of young people that don’t have a clue what happened yesterday, never mind five or 10 years ago,” Capuano said.

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Capuano also said he hoped first-time voters who turned out in September would continue to be politically engaged, but he suggested voting him out of office would not achieve the changes they are seeking.

“My hope is that the people that came out to vote for the first time, or one of the few times, in this primary, continue to vote and learn these issues and figure out how to actually change the system. Changing a few of the players in the system is insufficient,” he said.

He stressed that having experienced legislators on Capitol Hill was key to making sure work gets done.

“Congress always gets new blood. You have to balance that with people who know what’s going on. It’s no different than a business, it’s no different than your personal life,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with new blood, but it has to be balanced as well with people that have been around that know the history of what’s happened, know the internal relationships between people, know what you can do and what you can’t do.”

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Capuano, a former Somerville mayor who served for two decades in Congress, was defeated decisively in September despite polls that showed him with a double-digit lead in the month beforehand.

Capuano struggled even in his hometown of Somerville, which he won by just over 100 votes. The city’s mayor, Joe Curtatone, told the Globe in September that the city’s changing demographics were a factor.

“Because of President Trump, voters are fired up and turning out, something we saw even in city elections last year,” Curtatone said at the time. “The city is becoming younger and more diverse, and they are asking more of their leaders.”

But in his interview with WBUR, Capuano expressed worry that the Democratic Party as a whole was moving ahead of voters.

“How progressive can we be? How progressive can we afford to be? How far out in front are we from the average American voter? I think those are all fair questions, some people don’t,” he said.

In a statement to the Globe Tuesday afternoon, Pressley’s incoming chief of staff, Sarah Groh, did not directly address Capuano’s comments but thanked him for his service and praised Pressley’s supporters “from every walk of life.”

“Our focus is on engaging with community and partnering with members of the next Congress to advance critical priorities for residents here in the Seventh [District],” Groh said.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.

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