5 things to know about Democrat Martha Coakley
BOSTON (AP) — She’s one of the best-known political figures in Massachusetts, elected to top law enforcement posts four times over the past 16 years.
As Democrat Martha Coakley makes her final push for the state’s top political post, she’s trying to persuade voters that the prosecutorial skills she honed as a district attorney and attorney general can transfer to the governor’s office — an argument that has proved tricky for past attorneys general trying to make the leap to the corner suite on Beacon Hill.
Here are five things you need to know about Coakley:
Coakley, 61, has made a career of breaking political ground, becoming the first woman elected Middlesex district attorney and the first woman elected Massachusetts attorney general.
Now, four years after she lost a special election to Republican Scott Brown that would have made her the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, Coakley is again trying to open political doors as she tries to become the first woman elected governor of the Bay State.
Although Coakley has said the campaign isn’t about her personal political quest, she’s made an extra effort to reach out to female voters, who proved critical to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s two election wins and could end up deciding this year’s contest.
The centerpiece of Coakley’s economic recovery plan is her pledge to make $500 million in funding available over the next decade to speed the state’s growth.
Coakley said $400 million would go to major infrastructure projects. An additional $100 million would be used for grants to help identify local economic development strategies.
Coakley said the grants would be designed to promote collaborations between high schools, colleges, workforce development agencies and businesses. She said the grants would have specific goals such as the number of jobs created, workers trained or revenue generated.
Key to Coakley’s education plan is the expansion of prekindergarten.
Coakley said she wants to eliminate a waiting list of 17,000 children seeking state vouchers for pre-K and expand learning time to allow for more one-on-one instruction and enrichment programs like art and music. She’d also expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, with a focus on computer science.
Coakley wants the state to pay the balance of tuition for students who want to attend community college and can’t cover the expense with traditional financial aid. She said Massachusetts should establish a $5,000 tax deduction for families who make contributions to the state’s 529 college saving plan.
Coakley said she has no plans to raise taxes but hasn’t ruled it out either. She said she’d leave the option open only as a last resort if current revenues are insufficient to cover state investments in education, transportation and other key government services.
After raising the possibility of creating a graduated income tax in Massachusetts — under which wealthier residents would pay a higher percentage of taxes — Coakley said she had no immediate plans to pursue the change. The state has a flat tax of 5.2 percent, and a graduated income tax would require a change in the state constitution.
THOSE CAMPAIGN ADS
The governor’s race has seen a slew of spending by independent expenditure political action committees — super PACs — which have spent far more than the candidates themselves.
By the closing days of October, the groups had spent more than $8.6 million in support of Coakley’s Republican opponent, Charlie Baker. Nearly all that came from the Republican Governors Association.
During the same period, groups opposed to Baker spent more than $6.3 million. Much of that money came from unions, like the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Democratic Governors Association.
Coakley slammed one ad that suggested she failed to protect children. Baker said he didn’t like the ad’s tone, but he didn’t call for it to be taken down.