Senate race shapes up; Capuano runs

John Ruch

Ross eyes Congress; biotech lobby stumps for Capuano

US Rep. Mike Capuano, the congressman who represents most of Jamaica Plain, has emerged as one of the top two contenders in the fast-moving campaign to fill Massachusetts’ vacant US Senate seat.

And City Council President Mike Ross is considering a run for the local Congressional seat if Capuano wins the Senate race, the Gazette has learned.

Meanwhile, Capuano’s campaign got off to an early start without his knowledge, as a pharmaceutical industry group sent a mass mailing to some local residents praising him. The ad’s promotion of biotech may hit a nerve in JP, where perhaps the only controversy about Capuano is his support of a Boston University-run federal biolab.

The US Senate seat came open with the death last month of Edward Kennedy. Due to his death in office, special elections to fill the seat have been scheduled: the primary on Dec. 8 and the final on Jan. 19.

US Rep. Stephen Lynch, the other JP-area congressman, was also considering a Senate run, but has withdrawn himself from contention. State Attorney General Martha Coakley is considered the front-runner right now by most observers after being the first to join the race. Capuano is considered her most serious competition.

Due to the popularity of Democratic candidates, it is likely the Democratic primary essentially will decide the election. Besides Capuano and Coakley, other announced Democratic candidates include City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who lived in JP in recent years until moving to Brookline, and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca.

Republican candidates include Canton Selectman Bob Burr and state Sen. Scott Brown.

None of the candidates will be officially on the ballot until sometime in November, after they turn in nomination papers.

Ross, whose City Council seat includes much of JP’s Hyde Square area, is supporting Capuano’s campaign and eying his 8th Congressional District seat, according to Ross campaign manager Deborah Shah.

Ross is “obviously taking a look…If there was an open [Congressional] seat, we’d take a serious look at it,” Shah said. “We are looking beyond this race and this year.”

Shah helped engineer last year’s groundbreaking campaign by Sonia Chang-Díaz, JP’s new state senator.

Before Capuano even announced his Senate run, the Washington, D.C.-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) sent out a mass mailing the week of Sept. 8 to some local residents praising Capuano and featuring his official photo. At first glance, it looks like a Capuano campaign flyer.

“Congressman Michael Capuano is fighting to create new biotech jobs in America,” the large, colorful postcard reads in part. It also suggests calling Capuano’s Washington office and thanking him for supporting the “Pathway to Biosimilars Act,” which eased the creation of generic versions of genetically engineered medicines, while also adding new safety regulations.

Capuano was unaware of the PhRMA mailing, according to campaign spokesperson Alison Mills. After the Gazette e-mailed scanned images of the mailing to Mills, she declined to comment on its contents.

PhRMA officials could not be reached for comment for this article.

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