NEWBURYPORT — Martha Coakley would like to have it known that she won her last election.
Coakley, the state’s attorney general, visited Newburyport yesterday to meet and talk with voters, just a few days after announcing that she is running for governor in the 2014 election.
A Democrat, she famously lost the 2010 race for the U.S. Senate when Republican Scott Brown defeated her for the seat once held by party icon Ted Kennedy.
But, in 2012, she was re-elected attorney general, which she is quick to point out.
“This isn’t my first time out since the Senate race,” she noted while taking a break at Caffe di Siena on Pleasant Street. “I was re-elected, and I’m pleased with that. I made mistakes in the race for Senate, and many people, including me, were disappointed. That’s in the past, and I feel good about talking to the people again and discussing how Massachusetts can be better.”
Coakley, 60, acknowledges missteps in the failed Senate campaign and she mentions perceptions when looking back at her upset loss.
“One of the things that hurt about the defeat (to Brown) was the perception of many voters that I didn’t work hard enough,” said Coakley, who had a large early lead in that race. “I worked hard, we all worked hard. In the coming months, we’re going to be busy, visible, meeting voters and listening. I learned that you’ve got to listen as well as talk.”
Yesterday’s visit to the North Shore as part of Coakley’s campaign kickoff tour also included stops in Lowell, Lawrence and Gloucester.
In Newburyport, she approached diners at Angie’s Food and coffee drinkers at Caffe di Siena, while also causing a stir among employees. One staffer at Angie’s said, “She looks better with the longer hair,” and another remarked, “She’s prettier than the photos in the news can show.”
Bruce Gretz, a businessman from nearby Bradford, was among those who met with Coakley. “I have progressive views, and told her that some good legislation is held hostage by conservatives,” he said. “And I said we need a better climate for business, to bring back manufacturing. She was a good listener.”
Cynthia Meade, who runs Caffe di Siena, said, “She somehow chose our shop, and I enjoyed talking with her. She’s very pleasant, and seems interested in women in business.”
On a walk through the downtown, numerous pedestrians approached to welcome her, many former state employees or former campaign workers. The candidate was warmly embraced.
Coakley is a native of North Adams, graduated from Williams College and Boston University Law School. After a brief career in private practice, one of her stepping-stones in government was her tenure as district attorney of Middlesex County from 1999-2007. She thereafter was elected attorney general.
Coakley said that one of her goals as governor would be to modernize public schools.
“I am for an extended day,” said Coakley, a Medford resident who yesterday was accompanied by her husband, Thomas O’Connor.
“Students need more time to learn skills, for athletics or other activities. Other than education, the economy is a major issue,” she added. “We have to make opportunities available for start-ups, for education, for economic growth. Everyone wants better opportunity.”
Though there’s more than a year to go, the once-and-future candidate appeared energetic and engaged as she worked the city.
When onlookers asked, “Didn’t she lose the Senate race?” Coakley would often remind potential voters she approached that she is the state’s attorney general.
“I like going into the restaurants and shops and meeting the people, like today, when I talked with a fellow who had been in the racing business, and some others who had been in commercial fishing,” she said.
“If there’s something going wrong, people will tell you about it.”