Barney Frank On Boston City Councilor’s Bid To Primary Capuano for Congress: ‘Politics At Its Most Egotistical’

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Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank is no fan of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s upstart bid to unseat longtime U.S. Representative Mike Capuano.

In an interview with Bloomberg Radio, the 77-year old Newton Democrat Frank tore in to the city councilor-at-large from Dorchester, describing her decision to primary another Democrat as a “fight that is being generated by personality and ego, with zero issues.”

Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville).

“The last thing liberals need at this point is to have fights,” Frank, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 until 2013, added. “That money energy that should be spent on trying to take back the Congress is spent on internal fights.

“When Mike Capuano retires, it would be very good for other people to run.”

An email and a voicemail left Thursday afternoon with Pressley’s campaign spokesman were not immediately returned. 

The 66-year-old Capuano, with nine terms under his belt, has served in the United States House of Representatives since 1999. Prior to claiming the seat, Capuano served as mayor of Somerville, beginning in 1990. Pressley, an African-American, has served on Boston’s city council since 2010. She is 44 years old.

In her campaign launch video, Pressley introduced her slogan — “Change can’t wait” — and described her professional history working for former U.S. Representative Joseph Patrick Kennedy II and former U.S. Senator John Kerry. The video mentions Pressley’s status as the first woman-of-color elected to Boston City Council in its then-106-year history.

The four-minute video, published February 21, never mentions Capuano, but Pressley at one point tells viewers that “being an ally is easy.”

“You sign the right letters, you show up at the rallies, you say the right things — but these times require and demand more than being an ally,” Pressley said. “They demand intentional advocacy.

“Our democracy is being dismantled every day, our civil rights — our very humanity — it seems at times we’re at a deficit of empathy.”

The video also includes various district residents expressing their discontent with “some of the old-guard Democratic Party that have not been excited about Ayanna [Pressley], but then again, they disappointed me when they weren’t excited about [former two-term governor] Deval Patrick or [current attorney general] Maura Healey.

“When you have a change-maker like Ayanna, it shakes the ‘old-boy party’ to its core, and it needs to be shaken up, now more than ever.”

Frank apparently disagrees.

“For someone to run against Mike Capuano — who has an absolutely perfect record from the standpoint of the liberal values, he’s a tough guy, he fights hard — I’m not surprised that my former colleague [California Congresswoman] Maxine Waters is going to be campaigning for him,” Frank said.

He later called Pressley’s decision to primary a fellow Democrat like Capuano as “politics at its most egotistical.”

“I very much regret the notion that liberals should take some of the energy and some of the money that we need to try and take back the Congress and spend it on these kinds of internal fights — I cannot think of any issue on which people could legitimately challenge Mike Capuano from the left,” Frank added.

When challenged by radio co-host Anne Mostue about the desire for “young blood” and “fresh voices,” Frank responded with a sarcastic barb.

“What are we talking about, transfusions?” he said. “Metaphors get in people’s way — why is it time for ‘young blood’?

“Was it time for ‘young blood’ when Senator [Ted] Kennedy was doing all those great things in his last seven or eight years? I mean that’s just silly. The question is — what are the issues that people may differ on?

“So the notion apparently is that if someone has been very effective and very good on all the issues, at some point you run against them just because your ego tells you to take the job, I don’t understand any rationale for this.”

Frank, earlier in the interview, made a tongue-in-cheek reference to a hypothetical comeback in politics.

“I am disappointed, when I read in the paper that Mayor [Marty] Walsh and Congressman [Stephen] Lynch were supporting Capuano, I called ‘em up and said ‘what’s the matter with me’?” Frank told the Bloomberg hosts at one point, as they laughed. “I am very disappointed.”

Capuano on Wednesday — a day after Frank’s interview with Bloomberg — secured an important nod from an American civil rights icon when longtime Georgia U.S. Representative John Lewis formally endorsed him over Pressley.

Massachusetts state primaries are scheduled for September 4.