The Democrats' final debate | Derrick Z. Jackson

Coakley gets the keys to the Senate

By Derrick Z. Jackson
December 3, 2009

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MARTHA COAKLEY will be the state’s next US senator. Michael Capuano handed her the keys to the late Ted Kennedy’s office by getting caught up in one last dumb shouting match with the sure loser in the race, Stephen Pagliuca. One can only imagine the smile inside Coakley’s head as Capuano and Pagliuca descended into a banter so banal that Pagliuca tried to nail Capuano as the Sarah Palin of the Democratic Party.

All Coakley had to do was sit there, the only woman in the race, with the endorsements of EMILY’s List, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the Feminist Majority. Can you imagine, she must have thought, that these two guys think they are going to protect a woman’s right to choose more than me? She did not interfere in the banter. It was a frontrunner’s dream - an easy night of little substance asked and none offered.

As in the debate the night before, Alan Khazei continued to be elevated by the quagmire of Capuano and Pagliuca. He continued to play the visionary who says the real issues are universal health care and who is a bridge builder. But his lofty statements about wanting to get rid of lobbyists and political action committees were snagged when he was reminded that Kennedy took plenty of PAC money.

All Khazei could say was that Kennedy was “singular,’’ “unique,’’ and “special.’’ Coakley chimed in that, by the way, all PACs are not evil, such as those for environmentalists and nurses. Even if there is a late groundswell for Khazei, that subtle jab was probably an effective reminder that he remains too naive for the brawling of Capitol Hill. It was a bit ironic because it appears that Coakley, short of a shockingly effective Republican challenge, will head to Washington, without voters being completely clear what she will brawl for.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at