Coakley announces run for Massachusetts governor, faces tests
MEDFORD, Mass. (AP) -- Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who announced Monday that she is running for governor, faces a series of hurdles in her campaign, not the least of which is exorcising the ghosts of her 2010 U.S. Senate loss to Republican Scott Brown.
Coakley alluded to that defeat both in a video announcing her campaign and in remarks to reporters at her first campaign stop.
"I’ve acknowledged that we made mistakes on that campaign trail and I’ve learned from that," she said after greeting diners at a restaurant in her hometown of Medford.
What those lessons were and how well she’s learned them could determine the outcome of her gubernatorial bid. Coakley faces several other Democratic hopefuls and at least one Republican candidate vying for the 2014 election.
Her biggest challenge may be convincing Democratic Party activists that she won’t repeat past gaffes, including once referring to former Red Sox pitching star Curt Schilling as a New York Yankees fan.
"She knows that her campaign for the Senate was not her best campaign," said Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh. "She’s not only trying to put that behind her but behind everyone else."
In 2010, Coakley was widely seen as the front-runner after winning the Democratic primary. Local and national Democrats, including President Barack Obama, pinned their hopes on Coakley to hold onto the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy and help maintain the party’s critical 60-seat majority in the Senate.
But a surge of support and money for Brown and a series of blunders by Coakley, including a lax campaign schedule and a remark she made mocking the idea of greeting voters outside Boston’s Fenway Park in wintry weather, put her on the defensive.
By the time Democrats realized the race was slipping away, there was little they could do to reverse the trend. Even a last-minute visit by Obama failed to help her eke out a win.
Her loss earned her national derision, including a "Saturday Night Live" a skit where a Barack Obama impersonator labeled her "the single most incompetent candidate ever to seek public office in this nation’s history."
But Coakley, 60, said it was how she responded to that defeat that shows she’s steeled herself for another campaign.
"I got right back to work in the AG’s office and I got right back out shaking hands and meeting people in order to run again for attorney general," said Coakley, who handily won re-election later in 2010.
To help dispel the image of a half-hearted campaigner, Coakley has set an aggressive schedule, embarking on what she said would be a three-day barnstorming tour to 18 cities and towns across the state to announce her gubernatorial bid.
"I know it’s going to be a long, hard primary," she said. "I welcome that."
Republicans are hoping voters have long memories.
Coakley is "repeating the same disastrous mistakes that doomed her last run for higher office," including "not connecting with voters, snubbing her party’s grassroots activists and relying on pollsters and consultants," state Republican Chairman Kirsten Hughes said in a statement.
Charles Baker, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee, recently launched a second bid for the office.
Other Democrats already in the race include state Treasurer Steven Grossman, Newton pediatrician and former Obama administration health care official Don Berwick, former federal and state homeland security official Juliette Kayyem and former Wellesley selectman Joseph Avellone.
State Sen. Dan Wolf’s candidacy is on hold pending a final determination by the Ethics Commission on whether his ownership interest in Cape Air would represent a conflict of interest.
Coakley also faces the so-called "curse of the attorney general."
Since 1958, five former Massachusetts attorneys general have sought the governor’s office. None of the five -- George Fingold, Edward McCormack Jr., Francis Bellotti, Scott Harshbarger and Tom Reilly -- were successful. Fingold died before Election Day.
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