By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
SOMERVILLE — Hours after conceding the governor’s race to Republican Charlie Baker, Martha Coakley said there is “not a single thing” she would have done differently about the race she ran.
“I think we did everything we could have done; we left nothing on the table. And look, there is only one winner,” she told reporters and supporters gathered at her campaign headquarters in Somerville Wednesday.
The closeness of the race – Baker won by about 40,000 votes in race where more than 2 million votes were cast – was a lesson to all that every vote matters, she said.
“What we did in coming that close was the work of this campaign. I could not be prouder of them,” said Coakley, whose campaign touted its get-out-the-vote efforts in the final days leading up to the election.
In a 30-minute press conference where she both cried and cracked jokes, Coakley did not give any insight into her future, or say whether she will run for office again.
During a debate last week she said if she lost, her political career was over. On Wednesday, she said her only plans were to have lunch with her husband Tom O’Connor, and take her two Labrador Retrievers for a walk.
“We’ll see. There are so many things I care about, I’m interested in. I want to continue working for the people in Massachusetts. What form that takes, I don’t know yet,” she said.
“Whatever I do next, I am going to be better at it because of my experiences in this race,” she added later.
Coakley is completing her second four-year term as attorney general. In 2010, she lost a U.S. Senate race to Scott Brown in the race to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
She said she learned a lot about herself and the state during the race.
She described Baker as extremely gracious for letting her wait until the morning for all the votes to come in before conceding. Baker won the race by less than 2 percent, collecting 1.04 million votes to Coakley’s 1 million. Coakley called Baker around 8:15 a.m. to congratulate him.
“We knew it would probably be a late night. We felt even to the end we had a pretty good chance,” she said.
She added, “Getting this right was much more important than getting it quickly. We had both been running for 14 months. A few more hours wasn’t going to make a big difference.”
Election night was full of emotional turmoil for both candidates as the vote tally tipped in favor of one candidate, then back to the other.
“He talked to me about the roller coaster of last night. We were up. We were down. We were in, we were out. A little bit like a Dr. Seuss tale with those numbers coming in,” Coakley said.
She said she looked forward to helping him as governor in any way she could, adding “I told him I am going to hold him to his campaign promises now because I have his cell phone number.”
She described the tight race as spirited, adding she has great respect for Baker and his wife Lauren.
Outside influence from political action committees, and the millions of dollars that poured into the race for advertising affected the outcome, Coakley said.
She called for a constitutional amendment to address the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that opened the door for superPACs to contribute unlimited funds to campaigns. In January 2010, the Supreme Court overturned a provision of a federal campaign reform law barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.
“I think we have seen the ability, because of Citizens United, for outside groups, largely anonymously to come in and target a particular race. Look we’ve said there’s no mystery to the fact that we were outspent 10 to 1 in negative advertising by the Republican Governor’s Association,” she said.
As attorney general, Coakley’s office in September ruled ineligible a proposed state constitutional amendment pushed by a citizens group opposed to the Citizens United campaign finance ruling. While Coakley believes Citizens United should be overturned, First Assistant Attorney General Chris Barry-Smith said in September the proposal didn’t meet state legal standards for a ballot petition.
Asked by a reporter why the Democratic Governors Association did not help her campaign as much as the RGA helped Baker, Coakley said it was a question for the DGA.
“I do believe any group that can come in and target – we know who funds the Republican Governors Association – I think that created an uneven playing field at least in terms of money,” she said.
Coakley said her campaign fought hard and “almost won, despite all the spending.”
Coakley was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Deval Patrick, Attorney General-elect Maura Healey, and her lieutenant governor running mate Stephen Kerrigan, along with dozens of House and Senate Democrats, including Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), the state Democratic Party chair. Only Coakley and Kerrigan spoke.
Coakley became chocked up when talking about her campaign staff. Again later, she got teary-eyed when talking about her mother, who she said never had the chance to go to college, while she herself was among the first women to graduate from Williams College and later went to law school.
Coakley encouraged young women to run for office. She said the Massachusetts governor’s race was more about outside money than the gender of the candidates.
“For every woman who didn’t get the job she wanted, didn’t get the promotion, or who ran a race and lost, I say go right back at it,” Coakley said.
Coakley described how the people she met on the trail impacted her thinking.
“Although Charlie is going to be our next governor, I want to say I feel like we both won,” Coakley said. “I think that what an extraordinary privilege it was for me to serve as the nominee, to meet the folks that I did praying in church, in schools…”
Kerrigan spoke before Coakley, thanking supporters and congratulating Baker. He said of Coakley, “I am so proud of her, and being on a ticket with Martha made me so proud to be a Bay Stater and a Democrat.”