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Coakley Makes Bid for Massachusetts Governor

Attorney General Looking to Step Up Her Role in the State

Heights Editor

Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 23:09

Martha Coakley

Courtesy of Josh Reynolds / AP Photo

Between a United States Senate special election held just three months ago and a Boston mayoral election rapidly approaching, Massachusetts politics have not idled as of late, and are not due to slow down any time soon.

Monday morning, state Attorney General Martha Coakley launched her campaign for governor in next year’s election. She looks to replace Governor Deval Patrick, with the Democratic incumbent already stating that he will not seek a third term of office.

Speaking in her hometown of Medford, the 60-year-old Coakley outlined her broadest goals should she become governor.

“I think that I am ready to both lead and listen to people in Massachusetts about what they want. I know they want to continue moving the economy forward, giving people economic opportunity, improving our educational system,” she said. “I’m going to do that as governor.”

In a statement released Sunday prior to the official campaign announcement, Coakley conveyed her faith in the state’s future.

“Massachusetts is poised to take off,” Coakley said. “We can either grab this moment and move forward together, or risk falling behind.”

Coakley maintains that she will fight for “ordinary people with extraordinary courage,” reflecting a populist theme in a video about her campaign bid posted before her in-person statement.

A graduate of Williams College and Boston University Law School, Coakley became District Attorney for Middlesex County in 1999, leaving in 2007 after being elected to her current position of Attorney General. Coakley is the first woman in Massachusetts history to serve in the role.

During her two terms as Attorney General, Coakley has garnered praise for her high-profile work on issues such as health care, GLBTQ rights, and sex trafficking. Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh told The Washington Post that Coakley’s handling of these topics and style as Attorney General are appealing to voters.

“She is considered to be very fair, very thoughtful, very evenhanded,” Marsh said.

A 2012 Boston Globe poll revealed that Coakley was the most popular statewide political figure in Massachusetts, with 62 percent of likely voters viewing her favorably—a figure that bested those of Patrick, former U.S. Senator Scott Brown, and other notable politicians.

Early polls for the gubernatorial race show Coakley leading the Democratic primary field that features several candidates, including state Treasurer Steven Grossman—widely considered Coakley’s biggest primary rival—former Globe columnist Juliette Kayyem, former Obama administration health care official Donald Berwick, and biotechnology executive Joseph Avellone.

Coakley is also polling well against likely Republican nominee Charlie Baker, a Needham native who failed in a bid to unseat Patrick in 2010. The GOP is relying heavily on Baker as a viable candidate in light of Brown’s announcement that he will not run for governor.

Boasting a platform of fiscally conservative and socially liberal views, Baker, 56, is a Harvard graduate who served in the administrations of former Massachusetts governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci in the 1990s. He looks to return to the gubernatorial campaign trail having learned the lessons of three years ago.

“Charlie realizes [that] during the first time, voters didn’t get a good feel for who he is and what he is all about,” Richard Tisei, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, told “It’s just a question of letting Charlie be Charlie. He doesn’t need to be packaged, he just needs to be himself.”

Baker is not the only one who is hoping to rebound from a lackluster campaign in recent years.

Coakley is perhaps best known nationally for her tough loss to Brown in the U.S. Senate special election in 2010. Brown surged late in the race to overtake Coakley, who was hindered by a series of gaffes and criticized for running a timid campaign.

Although there is skepticism within the Democratic party about her ability to run a successful general election campaign following her missteps against Brown, Coakley is using her experience in 2010 to bolster her ticket.

“You know, a lot of folks say politics is tough and it can be,” Coakley said in the video promoting her campaign. “I know what it’s like to lose a race. I know how hard that is. But you know what, it’s nothing compared to what so many people go through every day in their lives.”

Local political experts and strategists point to Coakley’s resilience in the aftermath of her loss as a notable strength to bear in mind as she moves forward in the gubernatorial race.

“She turned around immediately from that defeat and was reelected [as Attorney General] by a substantial margin and has since continued to remain one of the most popular politicians in the state,” Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute for Law and Society at Stonehill College, told The Globe.

Marsh added that Coakley’s willingness to do a three-day long, 18-city tour following her campaign launch shows that she is “intent to put those doubts aside and the past behind her.”

Coakley is further reinforcing her campaign team by hiring democratic strategist Doug Rubin, often considered the party’s top political advisor in the state. Rubin has previously helped Patrick and Elizabeth Warren in their successful bids for governor and the U.S. Senate, respectively.

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