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Four Democrats reaching out to voters as primary looms

By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / December 4, 2009

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FRAMINGHAM - Attorney General Martha Coakley pulled up in a Ford Taurus, smiling and waving yesterday to several dozen sign-wielding enthusiasts waiting for her outside a Greek restaurant.

She shook hands, accepted kisses on the cheek, and attempted to rile up a dining room full of about 75 supporters as she launched a five-day statewide tour full of the kind of retail politicking that has so far been largely absent from her US Senate primary campaign.

“Let’s make some noise!’’ she said.

With the major debates now over, most of the endorsements in hand, and last-minute television and radio ads up and running, the four Democrats vying for the Senate began turning their attention yesterday to their final appeals to voters in the closing days of the primary campaign.

US Representative Michael E. Capuano went to Gloucester to receive the mayor’s endorsement and met with veterans in Dorchester. City Year cofounder Alan Khazei trolled for votes at a Lawrence pizza house, was slated to speak to Democrats in Cohasset, and trumpeted an endorsement from former US senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

Khazei is planning to host a $500-per-person fund-raiser tonight in Boston with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, before launching a “Big Citizenship Tour’’ of 35 cities and towns over the final four days of the campaign.

“I need your help,’’ Khazei said in a YouTube message to young voters. “If a number of you . . . use your energy and idealism for this final push, I’ll win this election.’’

Celtics co-owner Stephen G. Pagliuca launched another new television ad, reached out to voters last night with a “tele-town hall’’ event, and prepared to launch a bus tour of the state tomorrow. His green bus, dubbed the “Jobs Express,’’ bears a massive photo of Pagliuca.

“We’re at a defining moment in our history,’’ Pagliuca said during the town hall meeting. “We need leaders who will get results. I’m that person.’’

He said he opposed Obama’s plan to add 30,000 troops in Afghanistan and instead wanted troops withdrawn within the next 12 months.

He also said he was unfairly attacked in this week’s televised debates.

“What’s happened is politicians often use a technique of personal attacks and hyperbole, which is what Mr. Capuano was trying to do to obfuscate the issues,’’ Pagliuca said of their heated exchanges.

Capuano held a sparsely attended “Open Mike’’ yesterday with veterans at the McKeon Post in Dorchester. Only a handful of people attended, quizzing him on issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and the high suicide rate among veterans returning from war.

Capuano was undeterred by the light showing, saying it was just the type of intimate setting that has allowed him to persuade voters one by one.

“The last I knew we were over 250 events in a 2 1/2-month campaign,’’ Capuano said. “I work harder than anybody else. That’s why we’re going to win.’’

Capuano contended he is running neck-and-neck with Coakley down the home stretch.

“I know how close it is; it’s within the margin of error,’’ he said. “I’m positive.’’

Told that Coakley, too, is predicting victory, he said: “Good. Let her take the weekend off.’’

Coakley, who so far has done very little of the meet-and-greet politics typical in high-profile campaigns, spent yesterday traveling across the state shaking hands, starting in Framingham and then going to Springfield, South Hadley, and Fitchburg.

In Framingham, she launched into a 7-minute stump speech, highlighting the economy, health care, and efforts to protect children and seniors from online predators.

“We really need to get the vote out,’’ she said. “I’ve asked everybody to vote - at least once!’’

Afterward, Coakley called “inaccurate’’ any internal polling from rival campaigns that purportedly show Capuano closing the gap with her.

“That’s not my sense of what’s happening,’’ she said. “The only poll that matters is on Dec 8. . . . We’re going in very confident.’’

Coakley’s campaign has been very careful in planning each phase of the race. Yesterday, she shifted from debate preparations and endorsement announcements to stump speeches and baby-kissing.

“In the next five days, it’s really important that we get around the Commonwealth,’’ she said. “This is our chance to really get out and shake hands with folks.

Coakley is also getting some late help from the Service Employees International Union, which is airing a flight of radio ads touting her record as attorney general. The union is spending $214,448, to air the 60-second spot, titled “Responsibility,’’ according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

SEIU’s five Massachusetts locals, representing about 60,000 workers, mostly in health care-related businesses, have endorsed Coakley.

Two groups that advocate for abortion rights have also reported independent expenditures on behalf of Coakley late in the campaign.

EMILY’s List reported spending $57,188 this week and $55,046 two weeks ago on mail and phone banks.

On Tuesday, the political arm of Planned Parenthood reported spending $40,276 for pro-Coakley direct mail.

Yesterday, Coakley also released an amended financial disclosure form that included more details about her and her husband’s assets.

The Globe reported last month that Coakley had planned to file a new form because her campaign acknowledged that she had initially failed to list financial assets that are held by her husband, Thomas F. O’Connor Jr.

The form, which the campaign provided yesterday but is dated Nov. 25, lists a savings account worth between $101,000 and $250,000 and a checking account valued between $15,001 and $50,000.

Brian Mooney and Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.