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Curious support

If you're anything like me, you opened up yesterday's newspaper, saw that esteemed US Representative Michael E. Capuano had offered an endorsement in the gubernatorial race, and exclaimed, ''Finally, some clarity!"

Last we heard from Capuano, he was defending a lobbyist-funded, lobbyist-chaperoned $19,000 trip that he and his wife took to South America, explaining that he didn't see anything wrong with it. Of course not. I'm just delighted he didn't spill any of the Bordeaux on himself that they were undoubtedly serving in first class.

No sense in dwelling on the recent past. If Mike Capuano says to vote for Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary then, gosh darn it, I'm voting for Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary. Why even hold the silly primary? Save everyone the time and money and just anoint Patrick as the nominee today.

In fact, I was so excited by this pivotal endorsement that I couldn't wait to read Capuano's rationale for offering it. Surely, he would emphasize Patrick's hard-scrabble roots on the South Side of Chicago, the depth and breadth of Patrick's experience working in the Clinton Justice Department, Patrick's firsthand feel for corporate America from his stint in the executive suite at Coca-Cola.

But, wait a minute here, his quotations in the paper don't seem to stress any of that. Actually, what he said was this: ''I don't think [Patrick] brings any political baggage to the table. . . . When you're in politics for a long period of time, there are some people who like you and some people who hate you. He hasn't made any enemies."

That's the gist of Capuano's endorsement? He thinks we should vote for Deval Patrick because he's inexperienced? I don't feel it's my place to disagree with a towering intellect like Mike Capuano, but is this really reason enough?

Then, suddenly, I had a revelation, a revelation in the form of a story I heard a few months back, a story I confirmed through two politicos yesterday. They both requested anonymity because of the stature of the individuals involved.

About 10 years ago, when Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly was Middlesex district attorney, he launched an investigation into possible corruption in Somerville. The Somerville mayor at the time happened to be none other than Capuano.

Reilly's investigators showed up unannounced at Somerville City Hall with subpoenas and left with boxes of records. That's the way investigators generally work. They don't call up the targets of their probes beforehand. They don't say they're planning on stopping by.

The way the two politicos tell the story, Capuano was off-the-wall livid that Reilly didn't tip him off about the probe. In other words, Reilly was conducting his investigation in the honest and forthright way. Capuano wanted it done the old-school way. He wanted to be paid more respect. It didn't matter that no indictments or charges were ever brought. Capuano has barely had a civil word for or with Reilly ever since. He hasn't even tried hiding his disdain.

This might explain why Capuano has been taking immature sucker punches at Reilly from the sidelines of the gubernatorial campaign. It might also be the real impetus behind the Patrick endorsement. For the last decade, the eternally underwhelming Capuano has been hiding in the brush, waiting to pounce, and he saw this as his big chance.

When I called Capuano, his press spokeswoman would only say, ''You have a nice day." Later, she e-mailed me a statement that said even less.

Which is too bad, because it would have been interesting to hear Capuano address the irony of an old-style Massachusetts politician holding a ten-year grudge offer an endorsement of a candidate because, mostly, he's new. I see.

There may be a lot of reasons to vote for Deval Patrick in the primary, but Capuano's backing isn't one of them. Actually, with his endorsement, Capuano might have just handed Patrick the heaviest piece of baggage in the campaign.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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