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Five things to know about the political season in Massachusetts:
Some Democrats have never forgiven Martha Coakley for her stunning loss to Republican Scott Brown in a 2010 special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. The defeat ended the Democrats' supermajority in the Senate and was a severe blow to the party not only in Massachusetts but nationally, coming at a time when President Barack Obama was trying to shepherd his health care overhaul through Congress. Yet opinion polls suggest Coakley, the state's attorney general, remains popular among voters as she bids to succeed Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and win a measure of political redemption. She faces state Treasurer Steven Grossman and Donald Berwick, a former federal health care administrator, in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary. Patrick is not seeking re-election.
Republicans have historically proven they can win the governor's office in solidly-Democratic Massachusetts. In fact, the GOP had a run of four governors before Patrick's victory in 2006. Charlie Baker, who served in two Republican administrations before becoming chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, is back for a second shot after losing his bid to unseat Patrick four years ago. He's hoping a well-financed campaign and sharpened message will put him over the top this time, but in wooing independent voters he must continue to distance himself from the national GOP and its social issues platform that is opposed by the majority of Massachusetts voters. Baker is heavily favored over Mark Fisher, a tea party member, in the Sept. 9 Republican primary.
As was the case two years ago, the GOP views U.S. Rep. John Tierney as the most vulnerable member of the state's all-Democratic House delegation. Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who came within 1 percent of the vote of unseating Tierney in 2012, is poised to take on the Salem Democrat once again - that is, if the incumbent survives an unusually competitive Democratic primary. Seth Moulton, a businessman and Iraq War veteran, and immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco are among four other Democrats on the primary ballot. Republicans, meanwhile, are set to field general election candidates in only three of the state's nine congressional districts.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is running for a full six-year term after winning a special election last year to succeed John Kerry, who left his seat to become U.S. Secretary of State. Markey, who served 36 years in the House before moving to the Senate, has been dismissed as a Washington insider by critics and has yet to emerge as a prominent statewide figure. But his seat is not viewed as among those likely to change hands in November as the GOP tries to wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats. Markey's race against Republican Brian Herr has so far drawn scant attention and the incumbent's fundraising prowess should make for a steep uphill climb for the little known selectman from Hopkinton.
A long battle over whether to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts appeared to have ended in 2011 with Patrick's signing of a bill authorizing up to three regional resort casinos and one slots parlor. But opponents, who warn casinos will increase crime and gambling addiction while failing to deliver on their economic promises, gathered signatures to put a repeal question before voters on the November ballot. The campaign could be a divisive and expensive one, with casino companies that have already been awarded licenses in Massachusetts expected to battle hard to keep the law in place.