Six for the seat

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  September 16, 2009

coakley

ATTORNEY GENERAL MARTHA COAKLEY (D)
DECLARED? Yes
Coakley, 56, has become a political juggernaut since first winning election as Middlesex County District Attorney in 1998 — a position that also propelled her predecessors Scott Harshbarger and Tom Reilly to statewide office. She breezed to victory as AG in 2006, and, in her short time in office, has compiled an impressive record there. Her name recognition and popularity across the state dwarfs the other candidates' — and, significantly, she is so far the only woman officially in the race.

All of that confers instant front-runner status on Coakley, which she is padding by gathering a slew of prominent Democratic insiders around her candidacy. Coakley has already starting picking up endorsements, including an important one from EMILY's List, a national organization that supports pro-choice women in congressional and gubernatorial elections, and which will raise money for her nationally.

But her victory is by no means automatic. For starters, she must raise a lot of money very quickly, because she cannot use her state-office committee funds for the race. Her rapid campaign start — reflecting an operation built long before Kennedy actually died — might play into an image of her as nakedly ambitious, rather than best prepared for the job.

Coakley will have to prove that she can and will do things in the Senate that she has never had to do as a prosecutor: master policy, construct legislation, perform constituent services, and fight to "bring home the bacon." Her opponents will suggest that these are not her skills, and that the state is best served with Coakley in her current position.

SHE'S NO TED KENNEDY, BUT . . . she would be a historic choice worthy of the seat's legacy — and could someday join the pantheon of Massachusetts senators who campaigned for president.
HOW SHE WINS She demonstrates a quick mastery of policy and process.
HOW SHE LOSES Her opponents expose an ignorance of national issues and the workings of Washington.

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