After Loss, Coakley's Political Future Uncertain

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Martha Coakley speaks to supporters after her governor's race loss. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Martha Coakley speaks to supporters after her governor's race loss. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Martha Coakley, who had hoped to become the state’s first elected woman governor, conceded the race late Wednesday morning. The final tally showed she lost to Republican Charlie Baker by less than 2 points.

Coakley, 61, spoke to several hundred supporters this morning at her campaign headquarters in Somerville. She choked up several times as her husband Tom O'Connor, Gov. Deval Patrick, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic Party leaders stood behind her.

Coakley said that while she is disappointed with the outcome, she would not change anything about the way she or her team ran the campaign.

"I am so proud to be a Democrat in Massachusetts, in a state that cares about its people," Coakley said. "I thank you for being here today and thank you for helping me with this race. But most importantly I am challenging you to never give up. Let’s keep working."

Coakley is not saying what kind of work she’ll pursue when her term as attorney general ends in January.

"There are so many things that I care about, that I’m interested in," Coakley said. "I want to find a way to continue working for the people of Massachusetts. What form that takes, I don’t know yet."

Some political advisers say that after losing two statewide races, and with new stars rising in the Democratic Party, Coakley’s political career is likely over.

Coakley spent some time reflecting as she looked out at a sea of faces Wednesday morning, friends and colleagues, many of whom she has known for years.

"A lot of you have heard me talk about how I got into politics, and how I started to run first. I was in the first class to go to Williams College — women hadn't been admitted to matriculate before that time," Coakley said.

Then, pausing, and reaching for tissues, "You know, my mom didn’t have a chance to go to college."

Coakley looked back on her career in politics, but she also looked ahead.

"I want to say this to all the young women who’ve worked on this campaign, who have thought about running for office, who have tried and maybe not won. It's important that you do it," Coakley said, her voice rising above applause. "It’s important that you lean in. And if you want a good example of that, she’s right at my left shoulder, look at Maura Healey."

Healey worked in Coakley’s office and on Tuesday won the race to succeed Coakley as attorney general. Healey says Coakley has taken on many tough fights during her career, to protect abortion rights, to help families struggling with foreclosure, and to overturn laws that banned gay marriage.

"She has been an amazing mentor and role model and leader to me, and to so many men and women alike," Healey said. "She has and will leave an indelible mark on this state."

Coakley made a mark early on as head of the child abuse unit in the Middlesex district attorney’s office, when she prosecuted a British au pair accused of fatally shaking a baby boy in 1997. The baby's mother, Deborah Eappen, was a fixture at the trial.

"Martha brought hope to my devastated family," Eappen said in 2010.

Coakley has faced her share of criticism for cases she did or did not pursue, and most recently for the suggestion that politics interfered in her review of allegations against former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi.

Coakley nearly derailed her own political career with a surprising loss to Republican Scott Brown in a special election for U.S. Senate after Ted Kennedy’s death.

"I am heartbroken at the result, and I know that you are also, but I know you will get up tomorrow and continue this fight," Coakley told some of the Democratic faithful in 2010, who felt she had taken the race for granted.

Coakley has said this year's governor's race would be her last run for public office. She did not repeat that message Wednesday.

Coakley will remain in the public eye. Her controversial agreement with Partners HealthCare is in court next week. She said her immediate plans include lunch with her husband and a long walk with their two Labrador Retrievers.

Headshot of Martha Bebinger

Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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