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Coakley Announces Candidacy For Kennedy's Seat13:02
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Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, center, and her husband, retired Cambridge Police Chief Tom O'Connor, right, shakes hands with supporters in Boston on Thursday as she leaves a news conference where she declared herself a Democratic candidate in the special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. (AP)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, center, and her husband, retired Cambridge Police Chief Tom O'Connor, right, shakes hands with supporters in Boston on Thursday as she leaves a news conference where she declared herself a Democratic candidate in the special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. (AP)

Click the "Listen Now" button above to hear Coakley's announcement of her candidacy.

Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Thursday she will run as a Democratic candidate in the special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The 20-year prosecutor said she can continue to be "an effective voice for the people of Massachusetts."

Kennedy died last week of brain cancer at age 77.

Coakley said at a news conference the state has had a "crisis of confidence" following Kennedy's death and she wants to pick up his mantle. She said no one can fill Kennedy's shoes but that "we must try to follow in his footsteps."

"I think we all realize that the urgency is clear to fill the vacancy," she told supporters at a downtown Boston hotel.

Asked about the race and of the short time period — the primary is in December — she said: "It's a very short time period, it will be a tough one, but the voters need to decide whom we should serve."

Coakley did not explain whether she supports Gov. Deval Patrick appointing an interim successor until the special election is held in January 2010, which Kennedy had requested in a letter before his death. Legislators hold a hearing on the matter next week.

Coakley did say that once she gets into a fight, she does not quit — perhaps an indication that if a Kennedy gets into the race, she will stay in.

The 56-year-old Coakley becomes the most prominent candidate to officially declare. Several others are waiting for Kennedy's nephew, former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, to decide if he will run.

Coakley said in reponse to a question she decided to commit to the race without waiting to see if a Kennedy family member would run because of the senator's own declaration in his letter seeking an interim appointment that the state needs strong and effective representation in Washington.

She said she decided to run "because government should work well and work for everyone," adding that the performance of government "seems at times disheartening and discouraging."

"I believe now is the time to move beyond the idea of `good enough' government and demand a new
standard of excellence. I know that I need to prove to voters that I am the best candidate in this race and I believe I can do that," Coakley said.

Coakley described her humble roots in Western Massachusetts and her career as a prosecutor, both as Middlesex District Attorney in a large district that includes populous suburbs of Boston, and since, 2007, as the state's attorney general.

"Now I hope to bring my experience to Washington," she said.

She did not overtly highlight her status as the state's top female elected official.

Meanwhile, the state Republican party has filed a complaint asking the state to investigate whether Coakley improperly used state campaign funds to explore the Senate run.

Other potential Democratic candidates include U.S. Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch. Potential Republicans include former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and state Sen. Scott Brown.

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is considering an independent campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This program aired on September 3, 2009.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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