Coakley To Face Baker In Mass. Governor's Race

Republican Charlie Baker, left, and Democrat Martha Coakley (AP's Stephan Savoia, WBUR's Jesse Costa)
Republican Charlie Baker, left, and Democrat Martha Coakley (AP's Stephan Savoia, WBUR's Jesse Costa)

Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker are moving on to November after winning the nominations of their respective parties for governor on Tuesday.

Coakley defeated state treasurer and former Democratic party chairman Steven Grossman and former federal health care administrator Don Berwick.

Baker, the 2010 GOP nominee for governor, will get another shot at winning the governor's office after cruising to a decisive over Mark Fisher, a tea party-affiliated business owner. A former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care executive, Baker lost four years ago to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who is not seeking re-election.

Coakley is also seeking a reversal of political fortune after her upset loss to Republican Scott Brown in the 2010 special election to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. While that defeat led many within her party to question her effectiveness as a campaigner, she has repeatedly said that she has learned from her mistakes and will be a stronger candidate this time around.

Coakley greets supporters after her victory speech Tuesday night. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Coakley greets supporters after her victory speech Tuesday night. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

In his speech to supporters, Baker said he and his running mate, former state Rep. Karyn Polito, would end what he called one-party government in Massachusetts by bringing independent leadership and fiscal discipline to Massachusetts.

"Our opponents are stuck in the past," said Baker. "They're proposing more spending, no reforms, higher taxes, and the continuation of the status quo."

For the 57-year-old Baker, the primary helped him reinforce his image as a fiscally cautious but socially moderate leader and gave him a chance to roll out a less buttoned-down image than during his 2010 contest.

The primary also allowed Baker, who supports gay marriage and abortion rights, to pick and choose those issues where he differs most sharply with Democrats.

Coakley, 61, grew up in western Massachusetts and now lives in Medford. She would be the state's first elected female governor if she wins in November.

She has touted her work as attorney general in identifying factors that are driving up health care costs and in consumer protection, noting that she helped lead a national settlement with mortgage lenders over the foreclosure crisis.

Baker greets supporters after delivering his primary election night rally speech Tuesday. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Baker greets supporters after delivering his primary victory speech Tuesday. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

She also pointed to her office's successful legal challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which critics said prevented legally married same-sex couples from obtaining certain federal benefits.

Coakley was criticized, however, for ruling last fall that a proposed ballot question calling for repeal of the state's casino gambling law was unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, overturned Coakley's decision and allowed the question on the ballot.

Though lukewarm in her support of casinos, Coakley has said she will vote against repealing the law.

Coakley also faced questions from her primary opponents over her office's settlement with lobbyist John Brennan, a former state lawmaker, who was accused of collecting $370,000 in improper lobbying fees from a hospital. Under the settlement, Brennan's firm did not admit guilt and repaid the hospital $100,000.

Coakley will be paired with Stephen Kerrigan, a former aide to Kennedy, in the November election after Kerrigan defeated two other candidates in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

Coakley will need to replenish her campaign coffers for the run against Baker. By the end of August she had spent down her campaign funds to below $200,000, while Baker reported nearly $1.2 million in his campaign account.

Grossman, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, was making his second bid for governor after one term as treasurer.

"We ran, we fought, we stood for something that mattered," Grossman told supporters.

Berwick was making his first run for elective office after a lengthy career in health care, including a stint as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in President Obama's administration. Berwick's call for a government run, single-payer health insurance system was a centerpiece of his campaign.

Turnout appeared sluggish around the state.

Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin, the state's top elections official, forecast turnout of 15 to 20 percent of registered voters. In Boston, city elections officials reported that only about 12 percent of eligible voters had turned out as of 6 p.m.

At a polling place in Somerville, a number of voters said no particular issue had brought them out for this election.

"I always vote," said Paul Guglietta, who cast his ballot in the Republican primary for Baker.

"If you don't vote, you can't complain," said Dave Delano, after he and his wife, Denise, cast Democratic ballots for Grossman.

Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg and Philip Marcelo contributed to this report.

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