Martha Coakley announces bid for Mass. governor, saying she learned from 2010

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley kicks off her bid for governor with a three-day tour of 18 cities and towns, as she tries to prove her worth as an aggressive campaigner.

Michael Dwyer/AP/File
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley speaks at the state Democratic Convention in Lowell, Mass., on July 13, 2013. After losing her 2010 bid for the US Senate in a stunning upset to Republican Scott Brown, Coakley announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley officially entered the 2014 race for state governor, seeking to reassure voters she had learned from her loss to Republican Scott Brown in a 2010 US Senate race.

Ms. Coakley is kicking off her campaign with an aggressive three-day bus tour of 18 cities and towns across the state.

“I’ve acknowledged that we made some mistakes on that campaign trail, and I’ve learned from that,” Coakley told supporters Monday.

Coakley fell from favor in Democratic Party ranks after she lost the Senate seat that Edward Kennedy occupied for 47 years, which subsequently cost the Democrats their 60-seat supermajority in Congress. After the January 2010 loss, Coakley was easily reelected to a second term as state attorney general later that year, but her victory was still overshadowed by her upset loss to Mr. Brown. 

In an odd way, Coakley's jarring Senate upset might actually work to her advantage: Coakley has already proved she has the ability to bounce back, says Jim Spencer, president of The Campaign Network, a Democratic political consulting firm, in an interview with the Monitor. "Candidates never learn anything from winning, they learn from losing," explains Mr. Spencer. (The Campaign Network has not come out in support of any of the 2014 gubernatorial candidates). 

"When you suffer the kind of loss that Martha did, you really have learned what kinds of mistakes not to make again," says Spencer. "She may be beginning as the most savvy, experienced candidate in the entire field." 

There are currently five other contenders for the Democratic nomination: State treasurer Steven Grossman, former Obama administration health-care official Donald Berwick, former federal and state homeland security official Juliette Kayyem, biotech executive and former Wellesley selectman Joseph Avellone, and state Sen. Dan Wolf, who suspended his campaign pending discussions with the state Ethics Commission over a conflict of interest issue concerning his ownership stake in Cape Air. 

Louis DiNatale, a Democratic strategist and pollster, is more skeptical of how Coakley will be received by Democratic leadership.  

“Even though she dominates in the surveys, the Democratic activists remain concerned about her ability to perform as a candidate in the long run,’’ Mr. DiNatale told the Boston Globe. “They understand she could unravel at any moment in a tough general election race.’’

But Coakley's 2010 Senate failure was also symptomatic of an electorate that was growing increasingly frustrated with plodding economic recovery, says Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. "One of the lessons they will have learned is you have to work for it: You can't just dial it in," says Mr. Ubertaccio.

And Coakley's campaign is trying to make up for this past mistake. The candidate's video advertisement she used to kick off the campaign talks about the economy, jobs, education reform, and her 2010 loss.

"She's in a very good position," says Ubertaccio, adding that Coakley has name recognition, experience with statewide elections, and a proven ability to raise money. 

There are concerns that Coakley's 2010 loss will make donors hesitant to invest in another campaign. Coakley's campaign reported an account balance of just under $275,000 in a filing made to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the Associate Press reported. In contrast, Mr. Grossman, a former Democratic National Committee chair, has about $628,000 in campaign funds.

However, the Coakley campaign can also anticipate financial backing from Democratic women activists and fundraisers.  The Washington, D.C.-based Emily's List, whose mission is to elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office, is also expected to contribute to Coakley's campaign.

The other female Democrat in the running for governor is Ms. Kayyem, who lacks the name recognition and political experience that Coakley has.

Coakley is also leading in preliminary polls: In a way, the power of name recognition – no matter the reasons behind it – could work to her advantage. Pollster David Paleologos found that Coakley fared better against the likely GOP nominee, Charles Baker, during a statewide survey of 500 voters, which was taken this summer before Coakley had officially announced her candidacy. The survey showed Coakley earned a 56 percent favorability rating, statistically tied with Brown and Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who are the two most popular politicians in Massachusetts.    

If Coakley can keep up her early momentum in the race through the February Democratic caucus, a barometer of grassroots strength, "then I think she can put to bed any lingering doubts about her ability as a candidate," says Ubertaccio. 

In the next three days, Coakley is expected to stop in Brockton, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, Barnstable, Newton, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield, North Adams, Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Newburyport, Gloucester, and several other locations, according to the Boston Globe.

Democratic candidates began posturing for the gubernatorial nomination after Governor Patrick announced that he would not seek reelection in 2014.

Currently, there is only one Republican candidate: Mr. Baker, who also ran for Massachusetts governor in 2010. Patrick defeated Baker by six percentage points in the 2010 election.

Former Senator Brown, who later lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, will not run for governor, reported the Associated Press. 

The Massachusetts Democratic primary is scheduled for Sept. 14 , 2014, and the election is Nov. 4, 2014. 

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