NEWS

Editorial: Democrats' best Senate pick - Coakley

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Next to Ted Kennedy, who loomed large over Massachusetts politics and the U.S. Senate for 47 years, all the candidates vying to replace him seem small. But replace him we must, and Tuesday's special primary election is the first step.

The four contenders for the Democratic nomination sound remarkably similar on the issues, which may reflect calculation that only the most liberal of the party faithful will come out for a special election in December. But they present an interesting mix of styles and experience.

Michael Capuano, a former mayor of Somerville who has served 11 years in the U.S. House, is, by necessity, trying to make his insider status a virtue. He has seen government work from Prospect Hill to Capitol Hill and, like Kennedy, enjoys solving the problems of individuals as well as the challenges of making policies. He is proud of the votes he made against the Iraq invasion and the Patriot Act, positions we respect.

Steve Pagliuca of Weston is a partner with Bain Capital, a successful investment firm, and part owner of the Boston Celtics, a successful sports franchise. His business knowledge and understanding of international finance are impressive, but his experience in politics and government are nearly non-existent.

Alan Khazei is a civic entrepreneur, co-founder of City Year, a respected youth service organization. His political experience comes from working alongside Kennedy over many years in support of AmeriCorps, which was based in part on City Year, and the expanded national service program signed into law just a few months before Kennedy's death. He has waged a campaign of ideas and issues, impressing many people who had never heard of him four months ago.

Martha Coakley is a former federal prosecutor, Middlesex County district attorney and, since 2006, state attorney general. In every position, she has served with intelligence and competence. More workhorse than showhorse, she hasn't picked political fights on Beacon Hill or felt obligated to insert herself into each day's headlines.

This short campaign has limited the scrutiny the candidates have received, but has allowed time for second impressions to form. On second look, Capuano's record of leadership in the House is undistinguished. His passion over issues now looks more like feistiness for its own sake. It seems like he's looking for a fight, not searching for solutions.

Pagliuca's fortune is impressive - he's said to be worth $400 million, which is why he's been able to outspend his opponents on TV - and he has ideas and skills that the public sector can use. But no one should be able to buy a seat in the Senate with a fat bank account and a few months of campaigning.

Nor do Khazei's position papers and record running non-profits make a sufficient case for his elevation to the pinnacle of national power. We welcome him to public life and hope he'll stick around, but he's still too much a newcomer.

The weaknesses of her opponents serve to emphasize Coakley's strengths. She has direct experience in key policy areas facing Congress, and the intelligence to master those, like foreign policy, that are new to her. She has the temperament to be an effective collaborator in a Senate where personal relationships can make or break political agendas.

The choice for Democrats should be clear: MARTHA COAKLEY is the most qualified candidate to carry their banner in the race to succeed Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The MetroWest Daily News