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Race To The Finish Line In Governor's Race, Baker On Rise, Coakley Slipping

Jim Levulis

It’s less than a week from Election Day and in Massachusetts, the big ticket item is the governor’s race. With a lack of statewide excitement, Democrats are at a much different point than they were just a few months ago.Over the past month or so, various polls have shown Republican Charlie Baker and Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, running neck and neck. Both are looking to take over for Governor Deval Patrick, who is not seeking a third term. Baker lost to the popular Democrat by 10 points in 2010. The dead heat is a change from polling earlier in the year that had Coakley riding a double-digit lead. State Senator Ben of Downing of Pittsfield chairs the Democrats’ statewide coordinated campaign.

“I’ve never concerned myself with narratives or with perceptions, we can’t control those things,” Downing said. “What we can control is how hard we work between now and Nov. 4. What we’ve been able to control over the spring, summer and here into the fall is the type of campaign we’ve tried to run across all Democrats which is a grassroots campaign focused on the record that we’ve established over the last eight years and focused on our values, values about fighting for the middle class that line up best with voters across this state. So I think when all is said and done we’re going to be very happy with the results on Tuesday. I think we may look back on some of the stories about momentum or tides and realize that it was making a little bit more out of the noise than about the signal.”

In 2010, Republican Scott Brown beat Coakley, the clear favorite, in a special election to serve the rest of Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate term. The Democrat held the seat for nearly 50 years. North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright is a long-time Coakley supporter and former classmate of the attorney general.

“I’ve run three times now for mayor and I ran four times for city council, I know what elections are about and yeah theres always room for concern,” Alcombright said. “If you’re not concerned, you’re cocky and if you’re cocky that’s not a good place to be. I think quite honestly this is going to be a close race. The polls are telling. One day its Baker, one day its Coakley. So I think Martha has been in this kind of whipping that horse right up to the finish line and I do think she’ll win.”

By virtue of being in the Albany broadcast media market, televisions in western Massachusetts haven’t been flooded by campaign and outside advertisements. And because just 90,000 of the state’s 4.3 million registered voters call Berkshire County home, many of the statewide candidates have kept to the eastern part of the commonwealth. Pittsfield’s Democratic Mayor Dan Bianchi is backing Coakley in what he says will be a close decision, albeit a race that’s not grabbing the attention one might expect.

“I’m dismayed at what appears to a lack of interest by so many citizens,” Bianchi said. “I know people are busy and they have their own lives to lead, but the gubernatorial race is an important one. We are going to be selecting somebody who is going to be setting an agenda for the next four years that’s going to affect the lives of everyone from schoolchildren to senior citizens.”

Numbers released by the secretary of state’s office this week show 53 percent of Massachusetts voters are unenrolled. Just about 35 percent are registered Democrats, while 11 percent are Republican. It’s the independents that State Representative Smitty Pignatelli sees as the deciding factor.

“I think the wild card in the whole race in my opinion is number one the independent turnout, if they turn out, and the three other independent or third party candidates,” Pignatelli said. “Who are they going to draw from and more importantly who are they going to draw from meaning Charlie Baker or Martha Coakley. I think that could be the real test of this election. In a close race, you have three independents getting maybe 4, 5, 6 or 7 percent, that could make a difference in this election.”

Evan Falchuk, Jeff McCormick and Scott Lively are the independent candidates. Major newspapers like The Boston Globe and Springfield’s The Republican, both with historically left-leaning editorial boards, have endorsed Charlie Baker. The Berkshire Eagle intends to make an endorsement this weekend. Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have visited Massachusetts rallying for Coakley.

State Senator Ben Downing says it’s a push to the finish line.

“It is all hands on deck doing all we can,” said Downing.

In a debate, Baker and Coakley both said if they lose this race, it will be the end of their political careers.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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