By Matt Murphy, State House News Service
Attorney General Martha Coakley threw herself headlong into the 2014 race for governor on Monday morning, discussing economic growth and education as she embarked on a campaign to wash out the sour taste of her 2010 U.S. Senate defeat.
Coakley made the first of six planned stops around Massachusetts on Monday at Dempsey’s Breakfast and Lunch in her hometown of Medford, showing up just before 8 a.m. with her husband Thomas O’Connor to greet morning diners before fielding questions about her new endeavor, acknowledging a “long, hard primary” ahead.
“I think that I am ready to both lead and listen to people in Massachusetts about what they want. I know we 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 and I’m going to work every day to earn people’s respect and their vote.”
Coakley endorsed an extended school day, calling it “time to do that” after more than 15 years of discussion, and said “we’re going to take a look at everything” when it comes to paying for the program, including public-private partnerships. She said the state must work toward “better synergy” between government and the business and innovation sectors, applauding the decision by legislative leaders to repeal a new sales tax on software design services.
With visits to Brockton, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford and Hyannis on Monday, Coakley has 18 stops planned over the next three days that will take her from Newton and Boston to Pittsfield and the North Shore.
The rollout stands in contrast to Republican Charlie Baker’s strategy of releasing a campaign video followed by a press conference in his Swampscott backyard a day later. Baker has not publicized any events since his announcement two weeks ago, but over the weekend stopped by a Leominster fundraiser for Governor’s Councilor Jennie Caissie and the opening of a teen center in Brookline.
The other Democrats in the race for governor have similarly kept low profiles on the campaign trail since their initial announcements, focusing instead on the less public aspects of running for statewide office like raising money, recruiting volunteers and building support with the party.
The Massachusetts Republican Party immediately attacked Coakley, accusing her of making the decision to run for governor based on polls and advice from consultants, while ignoring voters and her party’s grassroots activists.
“With Coakley repeating the same disastrous mistakes that doomed her last run for higher office, now Massachusetts Democrats have yet another bad option.” said Kirsten Hughes, MassGOP chairwoman. “As Coakley, Grossman, Kayyem, Wolf and the rest of them duke it out for the title of biggest tax and spender, voters are about to get an uncomfortable look at a battle of career politicians looking to out-liberal each other.”
Coakley has teamed up with Northwind Strategies for her campaign, surrounding herself with many of the same individuals behind Gov. Deval Patrick’s rise in 2006 and reelection in 2010, including Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan. Rubin said Coakley’s campaign will be about bringing her message directly to voters and engaging the grassroots. Former Patrick spokesman Alex Goldstein planned to accompany Coakley on Monday’s campaign swing.
Her decision to focus on the economy and education as her initial priorities also led Treasurer Steven Grossman to declare himself the only candidate with a record in economic development arena.
“The most significant challenge we face is creating jobs and economic security across the Commonwealth. I am the only Democratic candidate who offers a lifetime of proven leadership in strengthening our economy,” Grossman said in a statement.
Before her Medford campaign stop, Coakley released a slick, two-minute video depicting scenic views from around the state and footage of the attorney general meeting with and talking to voters, including teachers, hospital workers and cops, as she discussed in a voiceover how they have inspired her political career.
The video and the three-day barnstorming tour appear to counter the criticism she faced after her embarrassing 2010 loss to Republican Scott Brown in the race to succeed a Democratic icon, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. During the campaign, she famously made a comment mocking the idea that she would stand outside of Fenway in the cold to shake hands in a gaffe that reverberated all the way to the White House.
“Look, we’ve acknowledged, I’ve acknowledged that we made mistakes on that campaign trail and I’ve learned from that,” Coakley said. “I got right back to work in the AG’s office; I got right back out shaking hands and meeting people in order to run for Attorney General.”
Since that campaign, Coakley has earned praise for fighting to secure relief from banks for foreclosed homeowners, fighting human trafficking and challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court.
Coakley called the residents of Massachusetts the “smartest, toughest and the most resilient” people.
“If you see them the way I see them, you can’t help but be inspired by them. These folks are the reason I’m running for governor. They need someone who will fight for them, someone who will take their side,” Coakley said in her video.
Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn said not only does he support Coakley for governor, but he urged his constituent to run. He called it a “great sign of character” the way Coakley picked herself up after the 2010 Senate loss and continued working hard on issues like the foreclosure crisis.
“Many people are still in their home because of her,” McGlynn said outside of Dempsey’s, where he turned up to show his support.