BOSTON (AP) — For much of her campaign, Martha Coakley steered clear of the Kennedy mystique, methodically crafting a low-key campaign to fill the late Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat the way the seasoned prosecutor would build a case in court.
But with the wheels threatening to come off the campaign and a double-digit lead eroding to a dead heat in the polls, Coakley, the state's attorney general, is banking that a deep-seated loyalty to Kennedy among Massachusetts Democrats will be enough to propel her to victory.
Coakley has publicly accepted the endorsement of Kennedy's widow, Vicki Kennedy, and nephew, the former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy. Vicki Kennedy has also made a fundraising appeal and cut a television ad on Coakley's behalf.
Some Democrats are worried Coakley has been too methodical in the six-week sprint to Tuesday's special election.
Once thought to have a lock on the seat in a state that last elected a Republican to the Senate in 1972, Coakley is suddenly fending off a strong challenge from GOP state Sen. Scott Brown in what's turning out to be her hardest-fought campaign.
Coakley, hoping to become the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, said she always expected a tough election.
"Scott's come after me. I'm going to respond and voters will choose," Coakley said after a recent debate. "I'm not going to let anyone distort my record."
Coakley said she's been working hard since wrapping up a decisive win in a four-way primary, claiming 47 percent of the vote. She said she's bringing the same passion to the campaign that she's put into her work.
It's a drive she said she learned early on, growing up one of five children in western Massachusetts and pursuing a legal career at a time when women still faced significant hurdles.