Maura Healey takes over for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on Wednesday, marking the end an eight-year tenure that involved two failed bids for higher office.
Attorney General Martha Coakley is set to leave office following November’s loss to Republican Charlie Baker in the governor’s race. In a battle decided by less than two points, the Democrat conceded the morning after Election Day.
“I do hope though that the lesson that people take from this, that it’s the voters’ decision that matters,” Coakley said. “And it is the work that each candidate and each campaign puts into that matters. We have all the outside advertising and it can change the way elections run, but I am a firm believer, and it’s why I’ve run for office, is that everybody’s voice should be heard.”
Coakley’s work ethic on the campaign trail was questioned following her shocking 2010 loss to Republican Scott Brown in a special election after the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. The Democrat had held the post for nearly a half century. Coakley consistently fielded and answered questions about that defeat throughout her bid for governor, which included an early stop in her native Berkshire County in September 2013.
“I appreciate that I made some mistakes in that race and my biggest regret is that people thought I didn’t work hard,” Coakley said. “I certainly regret that. I did get right back to work at the attorney general’s office. Going right back to work for people in Massachusetts. Keeping them in their homes. Making sure kids have protection from bullying. Passing a human trafficking law to protect our most vulnerable. And that is what drives me.”
Coakley shrugged off the results of the Massachusetts Democratic Convention in June 2014 when the party endorsed then-Treasurer Steve Grossman, despite Coakley’s lead in the polls. She went on to win September’s primary, but fellow Democrat Congressman Richard Neal suggested the primary campaign damaged Coakley’s general election chances.
Tim Vercellotti is director of the Western New England University Polling Institute and professor of political science. He says state Democrats got to work during the election, despite not being energized by Coakley.
“The fact that Martha Coakley only lost by a very slim margin, a little under two percentage points, says a lot about the Democratic committee and its ability to turn out the voter for a nominee whom the party apparatus was not all the excited about,” said Vercellotti.
In a debate during the governor’s race, Coakley said if she were to lose, it would be her last bid for elected office. Now-Governor Baker said the same thing. Coakley is set to join Harvard University’s Institute of Politics as a resident fellow. She will also serve as chief legal analyst for Boston-based WCVB.
Meanwhile, a former assistant attorney general under Coakley is taking over as the state’s top law enforcement officer. Democrat Maura Healey is the first openly gay attorney general to be elected in the U.S. Largely a political outsider, Healey has said she got into the race knowing the Beacon Hill establishment was not going to back her, believing she can bring independence to public corruption.
“Any whiff of corruption is something that I’m going to be sure we investigate and take on,” Healey said. “And take on head-on. Because I find that’s so corrosive to the system and people’s belief in the integrity of government.”
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families came under fire last year following the deaths of three children under the agency’s supervision. Child welfare advocates even sued the agency. While the Attorney General’s office is responsible for legally defending the state, Healey says she wants to get out in front of issues.
“One of the reasons I want to create a child and youth protection division is because I want to make sure that we’re doing all that we can within the attorney general’s office to insure delivery and care to children and families in the state,” said Healey.
Healey also says her office is going to address the opioid epidemic.
“I’ve said for a long time that I would be prepared to use attorney general settlement funds, when we go sue companies, I’d be willing to hold onto some of that and use that to fund programs and services specifically for heroin and drug abuse,” said Healey.