John Lewis and Other Black Leaders Spurn Black Challenger in Boston

BOSTON — Representative John Lewis helped change America as a passionate civil rights activist earlier than his tenure in Congress, however Saturday afternoon, contained in the brick-lined partitions of Twelfth Baptist Church, the Georgia lawmaker made a uncommon case for traditionalism and seniority.

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

Mr. Lewis had come to Twelfth Baptist to marketing campaign for Representative Michael E. Capuano, the liberal Democrat who faces a grueling major problem from Ayanna Pressley, a progressive Boston City Council member who’s making an attempt to turn into the state’s first nonwhite member of the House of Representatives.

On Saturday, Mr. Lewis lent his voice to the argument that Mr. Capuano’s expertise and seniority have been wanted in the Democrats’ struggle towards President Trump, moderately than the youthful power of Ms. Pressley’s grass-roots marketing campaign.

“It’s important to keep a leader, a fighter, and warrior like Mike Capuano around,” Mr. Lewis mentioned on the occasion, which was equal components gospel service and political city corridor and held on the identical Massachusetts church the place the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as soon as served as an assistant pastor in the 1950s.

His argument is emblematic of the bitter intraparty debates that Democrats are having throughout the nation forward of the 2018 midterm elections — debates that usually break up liberals throughout the sensitive fault strains of race, age and gender. The marketing campaign look by Mr. Lewis and the latest determination by the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus to again Mr. Capuano has made this major race a microcosm of a bigger seek for identification amongst Democrats, whereas igniting friction between nationwide black politicians and native ones.

The Seventh Congressional District that’s up for grabs stretches from Boston’s Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods to the communities of Cambridge and Somerville throughout the Charles River. It is the state’s solely district the place nearly all of residents aren’t white and Mr. Capuano, who’s white, has by no means confronted a critical major challenger in his 10-term tenure in Congress.

Then got here the bid by Ms. Pressley, who was the primary girl of shade to be elected to the City Council in its 108-year historical past. But as a substitute of rallying round her, high-profile black politicians — together with Mr. Lewis, Representative Maxine Waters of California and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts — have all endorsed her white opponent.

Mr. Lewis declined a number of requests to debate his endorsement. Representative Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the chairman of the black caucus’s political motion committee, mentioned the group endorsed Mr. Capuano largely due to his longtime private relationships with its members and his senior place on the House Financial Services Committee.

“We have nothing against the challenger, but when you have a colleague that’s done the right thing for 20 years, and has worked with you intimately, there’s not a reason for us to not endorse him,” Mr. Meeks mentioned. “We know him.”

Mr. Meeks mentioned that whereas he supported rising range in the House, new candidates ought to concentrate on unseating Republicans — not on defeating “a Democrat who has worked hard in the caucus” like Mr. Capuano.

“It’s not just about new blood,” Mr. Meeks mentioned. “We need young and energetic folks to run in open seats, or seats that Republicans currently hold.” The Seventh District is reliably Democratic and figures to go to whichever Democrat prevails in the first.

Still, the endorsements have prompted a backlash domestically from those that consider that the Democratic Party is failing to dwell as much as its oft-repeated rhetoric relating to the significance of range.

Among Boston’s tight-knit black political neighborhood, Marie St. Fleur, a former state consultant and the primary Haitian-American elected to statewide workplace in the nation, posted a press release on social media questioning the black caucus’s understanding of native points. Bennie Wiley, a robust civic chief in Massachusetts who’s supporting Ms. Pressley’s marketing campaign, mentioned she was “disappointed, but not surprised” in the actions of the black caucus.

Ms. Wiley mentioned she would moderately the caucus comply with the lead of the state’s two senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and decline to endorse both candidate.

“I understand people feel they have to be loyal,” Ms. Wiley mentioned. “But I was disappointed.”

Ministers on the Twelfth Baptist Church mentioned that whereas they respect and admire Mr. Lewis and the black caucus, the choice to so publicly again Mr. Capuano, and snub Ms. Pressley, had brought about concern. One affiliate pastor, the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown, determined to not attend Saturday’s city corridor, and mentioned the optics of blocking a viable marketing campaign by a black girl in 2018 have been, at greatest divisive and at worst hypocritical.

“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,” Mr. Brown mentioned.

The Rev. Willie Bodrick II, one other affiliate pastor on the church, mentioned he thought the endorsements of Mr. Capuano have been “hasty.” Though he attended the city corridor with Mr. Lewis, he characterised the first race between Mr. Capuano and Ms. Pressley as one which exposes the generational hole in the Democratic Party, as a revered elder statesman in the House backs a 66-year-old incumbent over a challenger greater than 20 years youthful.

“The generational struggle, this pull and tug, is showing itself across the board here,” Mr. Bodrick mentioned. “This is about just what kind of party the Democratic Party wants to be.”

One one that says she shouldn’t be rattled by the high-stakes political gamesmanship, nevertheless, is Ms. Pressley herself. In an interview sooner or later after the black caucus endorsed her opponent, Ms. Pressley mentioned she understood that her street to unseating a longtime incumbent could be a lonely one, contemplating the huge quantity of private relationships Mr. Capuano has amassed over his almost twenty years in Congress.

She pointed to Mr. Lewis’s personal life as a civil rights activist as inspiration for her to disrupt “the establishment,” and shrugged off the concept that out-of-state endorsements — even from distinguished black lawmakers — would considerably have an effect on the race.

“I just gave a commencement speech, and the young people I was with in that room, the young professionals I was with yesterday, and the artists and entrepreneurs I was with the day before that — that’s my C.B.C.,” Ms. Pressley mentioned.

“This is between me and the voters.”

A model of this text seems in print on , on Page A18 of the New York version with the headline: Civil Rights Icon Spurns Black Candidate in Boston. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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