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Former campaign manager reflects on Coakley

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced her decision to run for governor. In a year that’s been dubbed “the year of political comebacks,”  she

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced her decision to run for governor. In a year that’s been dubbed “the year of political comebacks,”  she is one more in a series of exiled pols who have sought public campaigns for redemption from voters.

Coakley is not returning from disgrace or scandal like a Sanford, Weiner, or Spitzer but instead shaking off a devastating defeat for the U.S. Senate  at the hands of Republican Scott Brown in 2010.  Coakley, considered a star as the Bay State’s tireless Attorney General with a shining record who had national promise,  angered Democrats for blowing a contest where she was a shoo-in to win the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy.

Kevin Conroy, the “smart, boyish-looking” Coakley aide (as Boston magazine described him in March 2010) ran Martha Coakley’s Senate race that year. Conroy had been with Coakley since she took over the Attorney General’s office in 2007.

“She took a long time to make this decision,” Conroy said of his boss’s plans to run for higher office again. “She spent a lot of time thinking this through and discussing with her family.”

Coakley made her announcement through video on her website, acknowledging the embarrassment of her last campaign, when she seemed to take the state’s Democratic tilt for granted and came across as out of touch.

“You know, a lot of folks say politics is tough and it can be,” she says in the video. “I know what it’s like to lose a race. I know how hard that is. But you know what, it’s nothing compared to what so many people go through every day in their lives.”

“Look, we’ve acknowledged, I’ve acknowledged that we made mistakes on that campaign trail and I’ve learned from that,” Coakley told the Boston Globe.

The end of that campaign was ugly and heartbreaking for Coakley loyalists such as Conroy. Even before her stinging defeat Coakley and her team were being raked over the coals by national Democrats and party strategists for running an insular and lackluster campaign.

“She did not take that race for granted,” Conroy said. “She’s an extremely hardworking candidate and the idea that she took it for granted was crazy,” he said.

It was especially crushing for Conroy, who spent a total of five years with Coakley.

“Those days after we lost I was still lying in bed with the covers over my head, watching Sports Center, and my blackberry powered off,” Conroy said.  “Martha went right back to work.”  “She never looked back and never said this was ‘unfair.’”

Coakley did not retreat, instead she geared up for another statewide race and eleven months after the tough loss to Scott Brown, Coakley won reelection as the Commonwealth’s Attorney General.

Coakley, who raised nearly $10 million for her Senate race, faces a crowded Democratic primary field that includes State Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Globe op-ed columnist and one-time homeland security official Juliette Kayyem, former Obama administration CMS Director Donald M. Berwick, and biotechnology executive Joseph Avellone.

“We have been through thick and thin,” Conroy said.  “She’s a real person who I really enjoyed working with.”