Alongside FLOTUS, Did Martha Get Her Groove Back?…
BOSTON—Appearing energized after National Republicans launched an attack on her, an undeterred Martha Coakley rallied with First Lady Michelle Obama and Democrats from across the state, effectively kicking off the final 30 day sprint in the race for governor.
The roster of speakers aside from the First Lady included Gov. Deval Patrick, Senator Edward Markey, Coakley’s running mate Steve Kerrigan, Boston Mayor “Mahty” Walsh, and at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. The event drew a diverse audience that filled the Strand Theater in the equally multicultural Uphams Corner section of Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.
The First Lady praised the gubernatorial aspirant as the advocate for the little guy. “If you want to elect someone who’s on your side, you need to elect Martha. You need to get that done!”
Rev. Jeffrey Brown offered the invocation and Seth Moulton, the new Democratic nominee in the 6th US House District led the Pledge of Allegiance. Springfield native Ta’Nika Gibson sang the national anthem.
Each of the speakers described the importance of electing Coakley the commonwealth’s chief executive, all along dinging Republican Charlie Baker, often described only as Coakley’s opponent. The main exception was Pressley. Her barnburner speech electrified the crowd as she tore into Baker and hailed Coakley, whom Pressley called a “partner” on many issues.
Coakley stuck to policy, but even as she did delivered one of her most animated performances. Speaking of Baker, she said, “I’ve found listening to what he says, that he’s really good at seeing numbers and waiting for more data.” Drawing a contrast with herself, “But he’s not very good at seeing the people behind, the people I see and the people I know you care about.”
Obama focused primarily on Coakley and the impact of the election on children. “Martha — she gets it. She understands that there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our kids – nothing,” Obama said. “We always put our kids’ interests first.”
In the background were both the attack ad released by the Republican Governor’s Association, via a Massachusetts SuperPAC and Coakley’s cash disadvantage relative to Baker. Reports indicate the First Lady was slated to raise about $150,000 for Coakley. Hillary Clinton is expected to do the same soon. David Bernstein reported recently other cash infusions were on the way as well.
As for the ad, which claims—disingenuously—that Coakley as AG defended a lawsuit against the Department of Children & Families, Coakley’s running mate, Kerrigan made early reference to it in his remarks calling it “frankly nothing short of disgusting.”
“If you want to make this campaign about who is best to protect people,” he said, “Bring it on!”
The lawsuit cited systemic failures at DCF rising to civil rights violations. In ruling on the matter in 2013, US District Court Judge William Young did find failings on the part of DCF. He ultimately deemed the problem a lack of funding and not conduct that rose to a violation of constitutional rights. Young dismissed the case last year. The children’s group that filed the suit appealed to the First Circuit. Coakley and her campaign hit back hard after the ad’s release
Markey, who also suffered from criticism about enthusiasm during his campaign last year, delivered a strong appeal to elect Coakley. Doing so, he said, would preserve Massachusetts’s position in national standings.
“We are Massachusetts. We are number one!” Markey said. He referenced a saying of the First Lady that children are 20% of the population, but 100% of the future and under Coakley, he argued, the commonwealth would be able to see the Bay State’s kids succeed.
Markey ended by noting Dems’ greatest asset: ground game. “Democrats do not agonize, we organize!”
Pressley, the Boston City Councilor, emphasized this point particularly. “Now is not the time to be tired. Now is not the time to stand still. Now is not the time for selective amnesia,” the last phrase becoming an anthem in her speech.
She savaged Baker for slashing the budget of DCF’s predecessor agency and running a nasty campaign in 2010 premised on demonizing vulnerable parts of society. Pressley said the Republican thought it was Halloween: he was up to tricks already, “but there is no treat at the end!”
A rising star in city politics, Pressley declared her pride as a Dorchester Democrat to thunderous cheers. That was a not so subtle dig at Baker’s frequent visits to the “Dot” to soften Coakley’s base here. Particular salient giving the composition of the audience, Pressley outlined persistent inequities that face minority groups (and women for that matter), some of which Coakley has worked to reverse.
“This is not about rhetoric, it is about a record!” Pressley trumpeted.
After Pressley ceded the podium to Mayor Walsh, he lamented the fortune of following Pressley’s speech. Walsh a one-time rival of Coakley’s in 1997, lent his unqualified support to the AG, arguing his city and the state can only achieve greater success under her. Walsh also made special note of the work Kerrigan has done, often without thought of recognition.
Although not unusual for him, Gov. Patrick delivered a rousing call to arms. “Democrats know it is not about us. It’s about you!” he said, also rejecting this was about preserving his legacy. He added that the split in Massachusetts politics is really between insiders and outsiders. Patrick claimed that sharing power between the two camps was at the heart of progress made during his term.
Compassion and justice Patrick argued, were at stake in the election. He told a story about meeting a resident during an unsuccessfully incognito summertime trip to Home Depot. The man objected to Patrick’s offer to house the migrant children coming across the border. However at least six other residents confronted him on the issue as well—to support Patrick’s offer. Most Bay State residents support justice and, by extension, Coakely is best suited to deliver it.
Anger gets all of the attention, but justice gets a whisper, Patrick lamented. “It’s time to shout justice, ladies and gentlemen!” he declared to applause.
A brief intermission separated Patrick and Coakley, who entered the stage to U2’s Beautiful Day. While not matching power of Pressley or Patrick’s speeches, Coakley delivered her remarks with notable passion. Challenging Baker on early childhood education and paid sick-leave, both he has either poo-pooed or proposed vapid substitutes, the attorney general offered firm defenses of both.
“Let’s commit to building an economy where everyone gets a fair shot!” a signature line from Coakley’s campaign since the beginning. Coakley also evoked mental illness, another theme of hers in light of her brother Edward’s suicide some years ago, “No one should suffer in silence anymore.”
Tying Baker directly to the RGA’s ad in one of the rare utterance of her opponent’s name, Coakley defiantly declared, “If Charlie Baker believes I’m going to allow him to lie about me and about my record, he doesn’t know me.”
After Coakley introduced Obama, the two embraced and the latter thanked “the next governor of Massachusetts.” Obama also gave a shout out to Moulton, urging “let’s vote for Seth along with Martha and Steve on November 4th.”
Her speech, taking place on the same day as her wedding anniversary, focused on the progress made over the last six years. She touched on the successes of the Affordable Care Act, drops in childhood poverty and job creation—fortuitously bolstered by the job report released that morning.
“When folks ask me whether I still believe everything we said about hope and change back in 2008, I tell them that I believe it more strongly than ever before,” but the First Lady cautioned, the progress was not made by her husband alone. “He did it with the help of outstanding leaders in states all across this country,” like Patrick and like Coakley would be as governor.
Obama said Democrats were successful in her husband’s elections, despite a torrent of outside money because millions who usually do not vote, did. But in midterms many of those same people tune out.
“We know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand or even just a few hundred votes — you hear me?” she said noting Patrick was reelected by 74,000 votes or 34 per precinct.
“Remember, 34 votes per precinct. Think like that. You know 34 people who didn’t vote in the last midterms? Mm-hm.” “I don’t even live here and I know 34 people who didn’t vote,” she said to cheers and laughter.
Obama closed by focusing on the impact on kids, “That is what is at stake in this election — the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and grandkids.” “They are counting on us to stand up for them.”
“I know we can elect Martha Coakley as governor of Massachusetts. And I know that together, we can build a future worthy of all our children.” Coakley returned to soak up the cheers with Obama after the latter’s speech concluded. The First Lady then departed for an Orono, Maine event for that state’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
Friday’s event itself was not an inflection point, but perhaps the RGA’s ad on Wednesday had prompted one. Saturday in Northampton, Coakley delivered her stump speech, but with far more oomph than in the past.
Speaking at the Strand about the paid sick leave question she declared with gusto “I’m voting yes on Question 4, who’s with me?”
At that moment the crowd was, most emphatically, with her.