By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — With just 20 minutes to spare before picking up her granddaughter, Mary O’Brien stopped at Carleen’s yesterday morning to meet Attorney General Martha Coakley who announced this week she is running for governor.
“I think she’s brilliant and a hard worker. And just what we need as governor,” said O’Brien, a Lawrence resident for nine years.
Coakley, 60, a Democrat, made one of her first statewide campaign stops yesterday at the South Broadway restaurant, meeting with some supporters who specifically came there to see her and others who just happened to be in Carleen’s having breakfast. Coakley visited a coffee shop in Lowell and made other stops yesterday in Newburyport, Gloucester and Salem.
Gov. Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat, is not seeking a third term.
Coakley’s visit to Lawrence came the morning after a preliminary election in which Mayor William Lantigua was the top vote getter in a six-way race for mayor.
Recently, Coakley’s office sued Lantigua for violations of the state’s campaign finance law and failure to report donations.
When asked about Lantigua’s election success yesterday, Coakley noted she can’t comment on the pending suit against him. She did say she understands democracy and “people get a choice.” Then, speaking generally about her role as Attorney General, Coakley said she will continue to pursue all investigations “in terms of the facts of the law.”
Voters are telling her the economy is improving but they are still working hard and concerned about many issues, including affordable education and loans, small business creation and job access, affordable health care and lowering energy costs. She’s well aware the unemployment rate has hovered at doubled the national average in Lawrence.
“I’m talking to people and listening to people about what they want,” Coakley said.
Retired Lucent worker Joseph Faranna came to Carleen’s yesterday to speak with Coakley. His concern: stiffer penalties for drunken drivers. “I want her to be tough on that. ... A lot of families have been destroyed by this,” said Faranna, who believes repeat offenders are too often allowed back behind the wheel.
“I like her,” Faranna said. “I’d like to see her be the governor. She’s been a real good attorney general,” he said.
Coakley arrived at Carleen’s along with campaign staffers and her husband, Tom O’Connor, a retired Cambridge deputy police superintendent. Coakley said she’s enjoying meeting an array of residents and has even had a few chuckles.
“Someone asked me, ‘What channel are you on?’” said Coakley, smiling.
Other Democrats vying for Governor are Treasurer Steve Grossman, Don Berwick, a former Obama official, Juliette Kayyem, a state homeland security official, and Wellesley selectman Joseph Avellone. Republican Charles Baker is also running for governor for a second time.
Carleen’s owner John Farrington said he was happy to have Coakley visit. Named after his late mother Carleen Farrington, the diner has become the backdrop for a variety of political visitors. “I don’t mind at all,” Farrington said. “I appreciate it.”
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.