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Providence Journal: Coakley For Senate

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Coakley For Senate

The race to fill the Senate seat occupied for so long by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and by such earlier luminaries as John F. Kennedy and Daniel Webster, has understandably drawn much national attention. After all, given Massachusetts's leading role in such sectors as health care, technology and higher education, senators from the Bay State have more clout than senators from most states. Such crucial current issues as health-care and financial-services reform and the wars in Iraq and (especially) Afghanistan further raise the stakes.

The need to pick the best person is more pressing than ever. Thus we endorse state Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley for the Democratic primary next Tuesday. (Our endorsement in the Republican race will run tomorrow.)

Ms. Coakley has shown herself a highly disciplined, measured and thoughtful public servant as a long-time prosecutor and for three years attorney general, where she also won plaudits for her administrative ability. (Of course we haven't agreed with all her positions.) She has also shown considerable character and independence in announcing her run before the other candidates, who seemed to be fearfully waiting for permission from the Kennedy family. Her work as a lawyer and attorney general should also raise her effectiveness in drafting legislation.

She has three strong rivals. Congressman Michael Capuano is very smart and has sometimes shown a welcome populist outspokenness. And many voters will like his capacity to bring federal dollars to his district. But he has also too often shown anger, and a sometimes too expansive view of the perks of office. His edginess might affect his effectiveness in deal-making in the Senate, which despite the public rhetoric, still requires a lot of collegiality.

A third candidate, Alan Khazei, a leader in developing national-service initiatives, some of which have ended up in major federal legislation, has displayed high intelligence, organizational ingenuity and idealism. But his capacity to deal with the hard, day-to-day realities of elective politics and governance is unproven.

The fourth candidate, Stephen Pagliuca, a private-equity partner, part owner of the Boston Celtics and philanthropist, has shown public-spiritedness but his talents seem more likely to work well in business or, perhaps, as a future governor than in the give-and-take on Capitol Hill.

All in all, Martha Coakley is the best candidate, but Massachusetts Democrats are fortunate to have four strong ones in this cycle.

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