By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Three days into her 2014 campaign for governor, state Attorney General Martha Coakley rolled into Gloucester Wednesday, braking at the brewing company on Rogers Street to spend a half hour shaking hands and conversing with fishermen, community leaders and residents who gathered and rotated around her.
About 30 area residents turned up at Cape Ann Brewing Company Wednesday afternoon to meet Coakley and hear her out. In addressing the group, Coakley spoke about turning around the economy in a rotation that would pull people at all levels along and up the “ladder of success.”
“I’m going to roll up my sleeves and work across the Commonwealth to make sure we turn this economy around for everybody,” Coakley said, adding a vow. “I’m going to be up here for you as governor.”
As attorney general, Coakley has stepped into a key role fighting for Massachusetts fishermen, filing a federal lawsuit challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s alleged refusal to consider the economic impact of its dire limit cuts on Gloucester and other fishing communities. A standard of the Magnuson Stevens Act would have required that consideration.
Gov. Deval Patrick certified the economic hardship this week in fishing communities like Gloucester as deserving help. But Coakley called the Small Business Administration loans that could reach fishermen as a result of the certification, “a false remedy.”
Massachusetts’ governor, Coakley said, needs to push for aid to our fishing communities at all times.
“A governor has a great opportunity, starting with the bully pulpit, to say we need help here,” Coakley said. “At the outset, it is setting a leadership tone.”
State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, introducing Coakley as a friend and colleague, ushered her into the restaurant and touted the advantage of electing Coakley as governor given her experience as Attorney General.
“She’s built up this institutional knowledge on the issues,” Ferrante said.
Ferrante, long an advocate of the fishermen, added that Coakley has “come to our rescue on occasion.”
“Our phone rings,” Ferrante said, “and she says ‘What can I do to help?’”
Along with leaders in the fishing community, Coakley’s appearance in the city drew a crowd that included business owners, former area politicians, and leaders in Gloucester’s non-profit community.
The Open Door’s Executive Director Julie LaFontaine and Wellspring President and Executive Director Kay O’Rourke had arrived early and sat down together, waiting for Coakley’s arrival and hoping to hear her speak about the economy. The ups, downs, twists and turns of the economy directly affect the people LaFontaine serves at the food pantry and the ones O’Rourke educates through Wellspring.
“When you’re in the kind of work we’re in, anything that has to do with he economy is right where we are,” LaFontaine said.
Betsy Works, a children’s advocate who goes into schools to mediate issues between the school and the parents and children, said she had come to speak to Coakley about the rising needs of the special education community she serves.
“My industry shouldn’t be booming, but it is,” Works told Coakley.
Coakley also chatted with Cape Pond Ice owner Scott Memhard, and said later she would consider looking at regulations like the state’s Designated Port Area mandates, from which Memhard and Cape Pond Ice are seeking relief. She said the state needs to take fresh looks at regulations that can be seen as holding back businesses.
Coakley has also promoted improving the state’s education system since announcing her campaign Monday. She has begun advocating for a longer school day that would allow teachers to shape the learning around individual students’ skills and interests.
“It’s providing the focus for kids to be where they need to be, and off the streets by the way,” Coakley said.
After greeting several people, then speaking to the crowd as a whole, Coakley offered her assistance to one senior citizen who approached her at the restaurant to discuss housing issues.
“Is there a particular thing you’re concerned about?” she asked the man, before grasping his hand with both of hers, then directing him to her assistant to swap contact information.
While that man had arrived searching for a solution, others showed up at the brewery just to meet the attorney general and hear her out.
“To have politicians come to Gloucester is an opportunity. I don’t have to go out to find them too, so that’s great,” said Patti Page, a Waterways Board member who showed up to the Coakley event.
In kicking off her campaign, Coakley had released a two-minute video depicting scenic views from around the state and footage of her meeting with and talking to voters, including teachers, hospital workers and police, as she discussed in a voice over how they have inspired her political career.
As she prepares to face off in a crowded pool of democrats in the 2014 primary, Coakley joined the rest of the group Wednesday in agreeing to take the people’s pledge, an oath aimed at limiting outside campaign money funneled through Political Action Committees.
In the first three days of her campaign, Coakley visited 18 communities in the state, stopping in Lowell, Newburyport, Salem, and Lawrence along with Gloucester Wednesday.
“I get my direction from talking to folks,” Coakley said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.