Taking sides

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 4, 2009

Some endorsements carry extra symbolism. Capuano has gained the endorsements of 11 female legislators, showing — his campaign hopes — that women don’t have to support Coakley, even though she would be the state’s first female US senator. Coakley, meanwhile, has been eager to lock up high-credibility lefties, to counter Capuano’s claim to be the liberals’ choice, and has been publicly backed by Jamie Eldridge, Carl Sciortino, Marty Walz, and Alice Wolf.

Capuano’s advantage has been, unsurprisingly, in his district, which includes much of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville — where he may have stored a lot of chits in the favor bank. He’s been able to help many pols in his territory, both with their elections and with a helping hand in Washington. Among Boston-residing state legislators, Capuano has been endorsed by 15, with just three backing Coakley. And largely as a consequence of that, Capuano has been endorsed by far more black and Hispanic officeholders.

For most of these pols, the smart money is on backing the candidate most likely to win — and that means Coakley, who holds a commanding lead in early polling. Plus, all else being equal, most Beacon Hill officeholders would prefer to make Murray happy than to line up against her. And not just those under the Golden Dome: sources say that Murray put intense pressure on Boston City Councilor Maureen Feeney to back fellow female Coakley, and was upset that Feeney endorsed Capuano instead.

Perhaps most interesting are those who have thus far remained officially on the fence. Some have overriding reasons: State Representative Ruth Balser is staying neutral during her campaign for Newton mayor, and it would be awkward, to say the least, for Mayor Tom Menino to endorse while Coakley’s office is investigating his administration over the missing-e-mail scandal.

Some are also being delayed by the candidates themselves, who like to time their key endorsements for maximum impact — Coakley, for instance, is holding back her supporters among the state’s DAs, while Capuano is rumored to have Joe Kennedy and others in waiting. But others have been conspicuously silent. Sonia Chang-Díaz, state senator from Jamaica Plain, has been eagerly lobbied by both sides; she is close with many of the women behind Coakley’s campaign, including finance co-chair Barbara Lee, but lives in Capuano’s district. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas of Lowell received help getting elected from Lee, Murray, and Coakley — but thus far has been persuaded not to be the first member of the delegation to side against Capuano. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has kept far, far away from the fray. With pressure mounting, we’ll see how long these holdouts last.

Can’t buy me love?
One thing all the commonwealth’s pols can agree on is that few, if any, of their ranks will endorse Pagliuca; his campaign for Senate has, rather, been the butt of jokes among the state’s political cognoscenti — at least among those who have not landed lucrative roles on Pagliuca’s payroll.

“Pags,” as he is known on the trail, is given little if any chance to win, no matter how much of his estimated $400 million fortune — amassed at Bain Capital — he spends on his quest. Financial-industry mega-millionaires are not exactly in vogue this season, observers say. Further, they add, his part-ownership of the Boston Celtics and brief attempt to buy the Boston Globe make him look dilettante-ish, not statesmanlike.

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