The Return of Martha Coakley
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Six weeks have passed since Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley lost a special election for the U.S. Senate, and the woman who would have been Democrats' crucial 60 th vote is staying away from a question that is growing louder each day in the nation's capital: whether Democrats should try to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation with only 51 votes.
"I'm going to leave that to others to decide," Coakley said Monday (March 1), declining to weigh in on the politically explosive "budget reconciliation" process that is being discussed in Washington and could allow Senate Democrats to bypass traditional rules and approve health care legislation with a simple majority vote.
Instead, the candidate who hoped to succeed the late Ted Kennedy in the Senate is focusing on state-level questions again as she takes on her second campaign of 2010: keeping her job. Hers is one of 31 state attorney general seats up for election this year, including 23 where incumbents are in the running. Meanwhile, incumbents in at least nine states — Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina — have their eye on the governor's mansion, with strong speculation that Democratic New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo also will run for governor.
Many of those incumbents are in Washington, D.C., this week for the spring meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, where Stateline.org caught up with Coakley.
Coakley sounded familiar themes among candidates running for attorney general this year, emphasizing the need to address economy-related problems as she ramps up her campaign. She pledged "to make sure that we continue to hold Wall Street accountable on the subprime mortgage issue" and said she is seeking to win loan modifications that could help homeowners in Massachusetts avoid foreclosure. Among her other priorities: protecting consumers from what she called "unfair financial products" and keeping a watchful eye on utility rates.
Asked whether her unsuccessful Senate campaign will help or hurt her chances come November, Coakley said, "I know that I have work to do. You always do after you lose a race." But she said she takes pride in the fact that her record as attorney general was not criticized during the Senate race, which focused heavily on the health care legislation now being debated in Congress.
Coakley made one thing clear as she seeks to put her Senate loss in the rearview mirror: "I'm glad to be back. I have a great job."