Congressman Richard Neal
By Ray O’Hanlon
Congressman Richard Neal, the de facto dean of Democratic Irish American legislators on Capitol Hill, has come through a rare primary contest and will stand for reelection to the House of Representatives in November.
Neal handily defeated his primary opponent, Springfield attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, by capturing seventy percent of the vote Tuesday.
In winning the contest Neal avoided the fate of fellow Democrat and leading Irish American legislator, Rep. Joe Crowley, who lost his primary in New York a little over two months ago.
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Neal, co-chair of the congressional Friends of Ireland, is assured of reelection in the Massachusetts First Congressional District for the simple reason that he faces no Republican opponent in November.
Regardless of the absence of any Republican in the district, the wave of progressive activism in the Democratic Party was something that Neal would have ignored at his peril.
As such, he took his opponent seriously and engaged in a television debate with Amatul-Wadud who was vying to the first woman Muslim member of Congress.
Meanwhile, Congressman Michael Capuano, in the state’s Seventh District, did not match Neal’s primary win and fell victim to the progressive wave losing to Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley who now stands to be the first black woman elected to Congress in Massachusetts.
As with Neal, Pressley faces no Republican opponent in November.
Pressley was endorsed by, among others, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Joe Crowley in June.
Capuano, who has long been supportive of Irish American political concerns and issues, had received support from Democratic leaders such as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Congressman Joseph Kennedy III.
The Seventh District is famous for its political lineage having been home base to the likes of John F. Kennedy and Tip O’Neill.
Capuano, like Joe Crowley a ten-term House member, was one of 32 House members who signed a letter last year calling on then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to appoint a U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland.
Last November, Rep. Capuano spoke at the Irish Echo/Belfast Media Group Golden Bridges conference in Boston. Pressley, too, has spoken at Golden Bridges.
Rep. Neal, meanwhile, will mark thirty years in the House of Representatives when he takes his seat in the new Congress when it convenes in January.
He was first elected in 1989 to the then Second District. His new bailiwick, the First District, which covers four counties in western Massachusetts and part of Worcester County in the central part of the state, resulted from redistricting.
Should the Democrats secure a House majority in November, Neal will become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.