Martha Coakley announced her candidacy for US Senate today, to nobody's surprise. Which, for political junkies like us, begs the question of what happens with the Attorney General office if she wins.
First off, if Coakley wins the election, then her first assistant becomes acting AG. That's David Friedman, who is generally well-thought-of but is an unknown quantity as far as a potential statewide political figure.
The legislature would have the power to appoint an AG to serve out the remainder of the term. They don't have to -- they could leave Friedman there as acting AG until the November 2010 election.
There are several legislators who might be interested in the AG seat, and would certainly love to have their colleagues send them over to be the incumbent for close to a year. That list might include Katherine Clark, Peter Koutoujian, Charlie Murphy, Pam Richardson, Jim Vallee, and really just about any of them holding a law degree. If either majority leader Vallee or Ways & Means chair Murphy want the appointment, they likely would get it. (Especially since it would make the other the clear frontrunner for Speaker Heir Apparent.)
I would say it's more likely that the legislature would make an appointment if they think Friedman would run, while they might decide to leave him there (and avoid an internal battle over the appointment) if they think he's just a placeholder. As of now, it's not at all clear what Friedman would do.
The other big factor is Gerry Leone, the Middlesex County District Attorney (who won election in 2006 to replace Coakley). Leone is a powerhouse -- he already has about a million dollars in his campaign war chest, and represents the biggest DA district in the state. If Leone signals his intention to run, that will scare away an awful lot of others (and, potentially, make the above legislators reluctant to leave their safe seats for an AG appointment that might end quickly in electoral defeat).
Then are plenty of other folks outside the legislature who might be interested in running for AG. The various DAs are obvious possibilities. Samuel Sutter of Bristol County is apparently eying it (and starting to raise money for it). Jonathan Blodgett from Essex County is possible. William Keating of Norfolk County has money in the bank and can raise plenty more, but may be too conservative for a statewide run. Suffolk's own Dan Conley could look at it.
But wait, there are plenty more! I'm told that Eileen Donoghue, former Lowell mayor and almost-giant-slayer in the 2007 congressional race won by Nikki Tsongas, is interested. There are former officeholders who might look at it, like Mike Festa. (Could there be a Lois Pines comeback?) There were some names bandied about earlier this year for US Attorney who might think about it. There are attorneys in and around the Patrick administration who could test the waters.
Of course, this is all contingent on Coakley becoming US Senator, which is far from a done deal. But that doesn't mean people aren't talking about it.