In Final Week, Mass. Candidates Spar Over ‘Peoples’ Seat’

BY Quinn Bowman  January 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM EDT


The race for Massachusetts’ first open U.S. Senate seat in 22 years is entering its final week, but the outcome in one of the country’s bluest states is far from assured. Republican Scott Brown is raising big money and one poll shows the race against state Attorney General Martha Coakley as a dead heat.

The candidates sparred in their final debate Monday night
, arguing over the pending health care legislation in Congress and over how to protect Americans from terrorism. (The debate was moderated by NewsHour alum David Gergen).

Health insurance reform is the central issue in the race from Washington’s perspective. If Coakley were to lose, the seat held by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy would go Republicans and leave Democrats with 59 friendly seats in the U.S. Senate, not enough to overcome GOP filibusters.

Kennedy spent his career in the U.S. Senate advocating for expansion of health care coverage to more Americans. He died in August from brain cancer.

The Kennedy name is bound in the public consciousness to seat he held since the early 1960s and his brother, John, held before him. Brown bristled at Gergen’s reference to the seat as “Teddy Kennedy’s seat” during the debate.

“With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat and its not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the peoples’ seat,” Brown said in the debate. Watch their exchange:

Coakley, who was recently endorsed by the Kennedy family, seemed like a shoo-in to win in a state friendly to Democrats. But two recent polls paint a murky picture: a Jan. 9 Public Policy Polling survey showed the race as a toss up, while a Boston Globe poll showed Coakley ahead by 17 points. Another poll commissioned by Democrats had Coakley up by double digits as well, according to Politico. You can see a roundup of several polls at RealClearPolitics.

Brown also raised $1.3 million on Monday alone, according to his Web site, in a “money bomb” fund-raising blitz. The campaign’s goal for the day was $500,000.

Coakley aired a negative ad against Brown on Monday called “Lockstep” that attempts to tie Brown to former President George W. Bush:

Today Brown responded with a negative ad of his own:

Bay State voters will pick the winner in a special election on Jan. 19.