Local U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (7th District) was first elected to Congress in 1998 and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Financial Services Committee. He is running for re-election this year and is facing Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary election. The Gazette recently conducted a question-and-answer session with Capuano about the campaign and about the issues facing the local area and the country. For more information about him, visit mikecapuano.com. (The session has been edited.)
Q.: Why are you running for re-election to the 7th Congressional District seat?
A.: We are in the fight of our lives against Donald Trump and the Republican majority in Congress. The election of Donald Trump represents the most serious threat to our fundamental democratic values I have ever seen — from tearing apart families at our borders to reneging on international agreements that were designed to make our world safer, Donald Trump is doing everything in his power to weaken the United States’ standing in the world, and tear down our country’s values.
I’m running for re-election because I am the best fighter for the people of my district. I’ve fought President Trump every day he has been in office, and I won’t stop now. I will be the most effective advocate for the people of this district by using my experience and know-how, passion and commitment, to stand up against Trump and fight for our values, our families, our seniors, and our neighborhoods. Our nation faces a huge threat in the form of Donald Trump, and I will never stop fighting against his destructive policies.
Q.: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill and how do you plan to address them if re-elected?
A.: The biggest challenges facing Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill are indicative of the challenges facing so many in our district: affordable housing, good healthcare, strong public education, reliable transportation, safe streets, and ensuring neighborhoods grow equitably in a way that supports all families.
I’ve proud that as your representative, I’ve been able to secure $20 million in funding for the Ruggles Station and a $30 million grant to completely rebuild the Whittier Street housing development, two large programs that benefit Boston. And as the only Massachusetts member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I secured more than $5 billion in transportation funding for Massachusetts over 5 years.
I share these examples because when Democrats take back the majority in Congress, these are the issues I will continue to champion. Again, affordable housing is a major concern throughout the district, including in Jamaica Plain. As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I helped create an affordable housing trust in the Dodd-Frank Act. This trust was intended to help families buy and rent homes. I created a similar program when I was mayor of Somerville. This program isn’t funded by Republicans — but the minute Democrats take back the House, I’ll work to appropriate funding for this important program. It’s initiatives like these that help people in our communities, and I’ll continue to work every day to create more opportunities for all.
Q.: What do you view as the most pressing issues for our country and what will you do to help fix them?
A.: The single most pressing issue for our country is stopping Donald Trump and his destructive policies. Donald Trump and his administration are working to take away health care, housing, Social Security, reproductive rights, civil rights, while protecting the big corporate interests, the gun lobby, and the billionaires funneling dark money into campaigns. As a result, inequality is rising as Republicans give bigger and bigger tax breaks to the wealthiest, and the rest of the country continues to be hurt by Republican policies.
I’ve fought to protect Social Security and Medicare, to bring down healthcare and housing costs, stop the tax breaks for billionaires and help working families, and protect the rights of all our people. That’s why I’ve earned perfect one hundred percent scores from progressive groups like Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, the Campaign to End Gun Violence and the Human Rights Campaign. I’m a fighter, and I won’t back down from continuing to take on Donald Trump at every turn.
Q.: What makes you a better candidate to serve as the representative for the 7th District than your opponent?
A.: No one is going to fight harder against Donald Trump and for the people in our communities than me. We’re in the fight of our lives — everything we care about is at risk. I want to stay in that fight, making a difference for the people of this district.
What I’ve done yesterday informs people about what I’ll do tomorrow, and my record proves I’m someone who gets results. I’m focused on creating more affordable housing — and that includes securing a $30 million grant to completely rebuild the Whittier Street housing development in Roxbury, increasing the number of affordable units and giving every existing low-income tenant a new apartment. I’m focused on creating safe, equitable transportation, like securing $20 million for the Ruggles Station in Roxbury, support for the Green Line extension, and investigating discrimination on the Fairmount Line. I’m focused on ensuring our communities have access to healthcare, which is why I co-founded the House Caucus on Community Health Centers. Over the last decade, enrollment in community health centers has more than doubled as I’ve worked to help them secure more funding and support. And I’m focused on creating opportunities for all. That includes providing good jobs for working families, including my work to secure more medical research funding for Boston than any other city in the country, helping Boston’s hospitals and health centers continue to provide good jobs across the district.
Fair housing, reliable transportation, affordable healthcare and good jobs — these are all issues Donald Trump and Republicans are working to roll back, hurting families across the district. I’ll continue to fight against the Republican agenda, and fight to level the playing field for all.
Q.: What is your view of Sens. Corey Gardner’ and Elizabeth Warren’s marijuana bill and how would you vote on it?
A.: With regard to Sens. Gardner and Warren’s bill, I look forward to reviewing the language once it is in the House.
However, I’m no stranger to this issue — in March, my colleagues and I sent a letter to Chairman John Culberson and Ranking Member Jose Serrano, who serve on the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. In the letter, we asked that the subcommittee draft their appropriations bill to include language that specifies none of the funds made available to the Department of Justice be used to prevent any states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana on non-Federal lands within their respective jurisdictions. I believe states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal matters within their borders, which is how the Founders intended our system to function.
Q.: What are your thoughts on the possible impeachment of President Trump?
A.: President Trump is a danger to our democracy, and our nation’s values. When Trump was elected, I refused to go to his inauguration, and instead held office hours to help constituents with their concerns. I have voted twice to begin a debate on whether this President has committed impeachable acts and I continue to believe Trump is leading our country down a dangerous, destructive path that must be stopped.