Published January 19, 2010
Martha Coakley (D)
AGE: 56; born July 14, 1953.
EDUCATION: B.A. from Williams College, 1975, J.D. degree from Boston University Law School, 1979
CAREER: attorney, Parker, Coulter, Daley & White, 1979-1980; attorney, Goodwin Proctor LLP, 1980-1986; assistant district attorney, Middlesex District Attorney's office 1986-1987 and 1989-1997. special attorney, Boston Organized Crime Strike Force, 1987-1989; Middlesex District Attorney, 1999-2007; president, Massachusetts District Attorney's Association, 2001; Attorney General of Massachusetts, 2007-present; served as president of Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, and on board of directors of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
FAMILY: Lives in Medford with her husband, Thomas F. O'Connor, Jr.
Martha Mary Coakley grew up in North Adams, a mill town in the Berkshires, the third of five children in a middle-class Roman Catholic family. A star debater in high school, she was among the first women admitted to Williams College, a few miles from her hometown.
Coakley graduated cum laude, from Williams College, in 1975. In 1979, she received her law degree from Boston University. Coakley began her career in civil litigation at two Boston law firms before joining the Middlesex District Attorney's office in 1986.
After working for the U.S. Justice Department in its Boston Organized Crime Strike Force, she returned to the DA's office and became head of its child abuse prosecution unit in 1991.
In late 1997 Coakley made a timely return to the district attorney's office after an unsuccessful run for the state Legislature earlier in the year -- Coakley finished fourth in a field of six.
In 1998, she was elected district attorney in Middlesex County.
The race to fill Kennedy's seat is the culmination of a decade's long quest for Coakley, 56, who grabbed the public's attention with the high-profile prosecution of Louise Woodward, a British nanny charged with shaking to death a Newton couple's infant son in 1997.
Coakley's polished appearances on national television during the trial brought her fans and broad name recognition.
She made her first statewide run in 2006 and became the first woman elected attorney general.
Perhaps Coakley's biggest case as attorney general was her handling of a fatal 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse in the newly opened Big Dig.
The incident gave a focal point to public outrage over the massive project's delays and soaring costs, but instead of pursuing jail terms, Coakley reached a settlement with the project's top contractor. Coakley blamed weak state liability laws, noting she won nearly $500 million.
In the December 2009 special Senate primary, Coakley had more votes than her two closest competitors combined in the four-candidate field.
Coakley married in her late 40s; she and her husband, Thomas O'Connor, a retired deputy police superintendent, have two dogs and no children.