Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Martha Coakley's Numbers Don't Lie: Why Haven't They Received More Press?

The Democratic field of candidates hoping to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy was supposed to be free for all - a fight among some serious candidates (including Ted Kennedy's nephew Joe, himself a former Congressman). Now, many of those who were initially considering a bid, have declined to join in the race. The candidates left standing include Representative Mike Capuano (MA-8), whose limited name recognition will likely prove problematic, Steve Pagliuca, a political novice who owns the Boston Celtics, and Attorney General Martha Coakley, the only prospective candidate to have won statewide elective office.

Opinion polls have Coakley winning potential match-ups by significant margins. A Suffolk University/7NEWS poll released on Monday showed 47% of voters choosing Coakley. Despite her undeniable front-runner status, Coakley has received comparable coverage to the men in the race. Coakley faces some initial challenges. Campaign finance laws prohibit her from spending money raised for state races on federal campaigns. Congressman Capuano approximately $1 million dollars cash on hand. Pagliuca's net worth totals more than $400 million.

Emily's List has endorsed Coakley and is aggressively fundraising on her behalf (a trip to their website had directed visitors to a contribution form before their home page). Several unions have followed suit. Feminists in Massachusetts are eager to see a woman win statewide office -- Coakley will likely be able to count on many of them for funds and volunteers.Massachusetts politics has traditionally been a male domain, despite its socially liberal political inclinations. But in 2007, Therese Murray became President of the Massachusetts' State Senate. Niki Tsongas (widow of Senator Paul Tsongas) joined Congress the same year as a representative of Massachusetts' fifth district and the first women in 25 years to serve as part of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. Ted Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, was initially considered a popular candidate for his senate seat. The proportion of women in the state legislature, although still low, has been increasing in recent years.

Women are on the rise in Massachusetts politics. Coakely's 53% approval rating indicates that the trend may well continue. The media may continue to portray race as competitive one, but the numbers show otherwise. Until today, this was Martha Coakley’s race to lose and certainly one to watch. But now that the Democratically dominated state legislature has voted to allow Governor Deval Patrick to appoint a new U.S. Senator, the narrative has changed - we'll see if coverage of Attorney General Coakley follows suit.

Ben D'Avanzo