FOR THE FIRST three months of a 3 1/2-month campaign, Attorney General Martha Coakley behaved like a front-runner sitting on a lead, determined not to cause a stir. In the last two weeks, she looked more like a senator, skillfully engaging her three Democratic rivals in televised debates, while offering an appealing mix of forcefulness in protecting abortion rights and measured judgment in controlling government spending and investigating terrorist threats.
Coakley’s victory Tuesday night was a tribute to the credibility she earned during a three-decade career in public service, and especially to the passion generated by Massachusetts professional women, eager to see one of their own on the national stage.
In the six-week general election campaign to come, Coakley will face a different type of challenger. Republican nominee Scott Brown, a state senator and articulate critic of Democratic congressional politics, will force her to defend her party’s national agenda. That slate of priorities continues to enjoy the support of the many party loyalists in Massachusetts, but is coming under renewed scrutiny by independents.
Brown is a new face to most Massachusetts voters, with an eclectic resume and a sense of confidence in promoting a conservative platform to suburbanites. His Republican primary victory over businessman Jack E. Robinson was widely expected. Now, he will have a chance to introduce himself to Massachusetts voters and show his strengths.
With a short sprint to the finish, voters expect a spirited race from both candidates. Coakley and Brown deserve to savor Tuesday night’s primary victories, even as their work is just beginning.