|(Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe)|
MARTHA COAKLEY failed to persuade voters last January that her long career in law enforcement would make her a successful US senator, and her unexpected defeat left her the target of jokes across the country. But rather than recoil, she simply went back to doing what she does best, and what her entire career prepared her to do: Serve as the state’s attorney general. Her current job is a natural fit. She deserves to keep it.
Coakley’s nose-to-the-grindstone approach has worked well as she has taken on several public corruption cases, Medicaid fraud, children’s safety online, predatory lenders, and the disproportionate market clout of Boston teaching hospitals. Coakley has driven down utility rate increases and got Cape Wind and National Grid to reduce the price to consumers for the wind turbines’ power by 10 percent.
In her review of the proposed sale of the six Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals to a private-equity firm, she should have called for tougher long-term protections both for the hospitals and the community hospitals they compete with. On balance, however, she has been a hard-working people’s advocate who has surrounded herself with competent staff and carefully chosen the issues on which she has focused.
Her opponent, Millbury attorney James McKenna, deserves credit for mobilizing more than 10,000 voters to write in his name on the Republican primary ballot, qualifying him for the Nov. 2 election. His campaign, however, has been a disappointment. McKenna has made much of the need for tighter restrictions on illegal immigrants, even though that is far more a national issue than a state one. He has faulted Coakley for not taking the lead in prosecuting former Boston state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who pleaded guilty last June to federal charges of attempted extortion. But AGs in this state often defer to federal prosecutors in certain corruption cases — federal-code sentences are stiffer and US attorneys have the right to use wiretaps in such cases. The Legislature has refused to grant such power to the AG’s office.
McKenna’s web site does not mention the Caritas Christi case. Indeed, its only reference to health care is his statement that he believes the national health reform law passed this year to be unconstitutional. On health care and other consumer issues, such as banking and utility-rate review, he has left voters largely in the dark. With Coakley, on the other hand, voters know what they are getting — a savvy, experienced watchdog over the safety and economic interests of Massachusetts residents.
She deserves a second term.