Attorney General Martha Coakley, addressing a meeting of Martha’s Vineyard Democrats Saturday morning, said she feels confident about her chances to be elected the next governor.
“I know what I have to do and I’m going to do it,” she told about 40 people gathered at Howes House in West Tisbury. “I could give you an answer, but I’m going to show you.”
During a wide-ranging question and answer session, Ms. Coakley addressed a variety of issues including medical marijuana and immigration, answered concerns about her loss to Scott Brown in the 2010 special U.S. Senate election, and talked about the Vineyard, to which she has personal ties.
“I think of Martha as a daughter of the Vineyard,” MV Democrats chairman Paddy Moore said at the meeting, noting that Ms. Coakley lived and worked on the Island for a short time before law school. She and her husband, Thomas O’Connor Jr., were married on the Island, and Ms. Coakley’s sister Jane lives in West Tisbury. Her parents used to own a condominium in Vineyard Haven.
Ms. Coakley is one of five Democrats who have declared their intention to run for governor in 2014, succeeding Deval Patrick, who has opted not to seek a third term. Other Democrats in the race include state treasurer Steven Grossman, former Obama administration health official Donald Berwick, Juliette Kayyem, a former Homeland Security official, and biotech executive Joseph Avellone.
Ms. Moore said the Martha’s Vineyard Democrats have invited all of the candidates to come speak to the group.
The only Republican in the race thus far is Charles Baker, the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.
State Sen. Daniel A. Wolf, a Democrat, recently dropped out of the race. Ms. Coakley had high praise for him Saturday, saying she thought he would run for governor again some day.
Ms. Coakley, who lives in Medford with her husband and their dogs, Jackson and Jefferson, is now in her second term as the state’s attorney general. A graduate of Boston University School of Law, she previously served as Middlesex district attorney.
Her remarks on Saturday highlighted her accomplishments as attorney general, such as challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and fighting big banks and foreclosures, but her focus was on the future. Ms. Coakley said she began her day Saturday with a tour of the new West Tisbury Library, which is under construction next to Howes House. She said the library’s commitment to keeping historic elements while renovating for the future exemplified her vision for Massachusetts.
“We need to turn this economy around and we need to do it for everybody,” she said. She proposed raising the minimum wage and giving sick leave to families and other workers.
She also emphasized science and technology, noting the low number of Massachusetts students that take advanced placement computer science classes.
When it comes to schools, Ms. Coakley said she favored lengthening the school day and taking a look at how the school year is structured so students can compete in the global economy.
After the meeting, Ms. Coakley told the Gazette that among the issues important to Vineyard residents is FEMA’s flood plain maps. “FEMA has to put off imposing the new size of the flood plain,” she said, noting that most people’s flood mortgage is going up by a factor of 10. She said this would come down like “an anvil” for those who live on the coast. Ms. Coakley said she still has work to do as attorney general, including support for LGBT children and working to keep health care costs down. This work will continue as governor, she said, “with a slightly different focus . . . I feel I have a good grasp of what those issues are.”
For example, she said, she knows as attorney general the role that government plays in promoting a healthy economy.
Ms. Coakley faced some tough questions from audience members who recalled her loss in the 2010 Senate race and asked about that legacy.
After the Senate election, Ms. Coakley said, she got back to work as attorney general and was easily re-elected to that post. In her campaign now, she said, she is out to work “voter by voter, action by action . . . [to] change what that perception is.”
“I’m enjoying it. For what it’s worth, I’ve been outside Fenway Park,” she said, alluding to criticism that she was out-campaigned in the 2010 election by Mr. Brown. “I am in this. I’m out there.
“I know I have to show you all. When I lost, nobody felt it more than me.”
This time around, Ms. Coakley said she knows she will face a formidable candidate on the Republican side of the ticket if she wins the Democratic primary. Ms. Coakley noted that her first campaign was for state representative. In that race, she was defeated by Martin Walsh, the mayor-elect of Boston.
She said she entered the race because she thinks she can win.
“I would not have gotten in the race if I didn’t think I could,” she said.