Stephen Pagliuca, Boston Celtics co-owner and a managing director of Bain Capital, announced his candidacy Thursday for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Pagliuca, Trinity ’77, is new to the political arena but said he will draw upon two decades of experience as a private equity investor should he be elected.
“I got approached by several prominent Democratic people in Boston,” he said. “Many people were looking for someone who had on-the-ground experience because of the bad economy, to try to get us out of it, and I said I would try and do that.”
Pagliuca, a former chairman of the Trinity College Board of Visitors at Duke, also serves as president of the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation and is a member of the World Economic Forum. He said his background in economics means he brings a valuable perspective to the party.
“I’m really running on the theme that we’ve got to get a better partnership between government, business, educational institutions and unions to work together,” he said. “Our issue is, we’re in the global economy now, and we have to unite everyone so everyone here can continue to pursue the American dream.”
The Weston, Mass. resident, who is worth about $400 million, said he is self-financing his campaign, and will immediately launch a series of television advertisements to introduce himself to the public, which he said is largely unfamiliar with him. Pagliuca has taken a leave of absence from Bain during his run for the Senate seat and said he plans to conduct a “listen and learn” campaign, traveling throughout Massachusetts and talking on radio shows to get his message out.
“The people I’m running against are long-time politicians who have spent millions on advertising, so I’m definitely behind on that,” he added.
His entrance into the Democratic primary race pits him against Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has already announced her candidacy, and Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., who is expected to do so today, according to media reports.
Pagliuca will face questions before the Dec. 8 primary about his previous support for several Republican politicians, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was a Bain colleague of Pagliuca’s. Pagliuca switched from being a registered Republican to a Democrat in 1998. Advisers to the political novice have told the media that Pagliuca’s contributions to Romney were due mostly to their professional relationship, and that Pagliuca characterizes himself as a “progressive” Democrat.
“Well I’ve had just a little Republican support really for a long-time partner and friend—a friendship of 20 years prompted me to help him when he needed help,” Pagliuca said. “But I’ve been Democratic for the last 10 years, and I’ve supported the Democratic ideals my entire life.”
The race for the vacated seat is of special interest because of Kennedy’s long legacy in American politics.
“I don’t think anyone will ever ‘succeed’ Ted Kennedy, because he’s a legend,” Pagliuca said. “But he’s a great example for us to strive toward in making change and making a difference in other people’s lives.”
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Kennedy’s Senate seat will remain vacant until the January special election unless the Massachusetts legislature approves an effort to give Gov. Deval Patrick the authority to appoint an interim senator.