BOSTON (AP)- Attorney General Martha Coakley's decision to jump into the race for governor is shaking up the field of contenders hoping to replace Gov. Deval Patrick.
Of the Democratic candidates, Coakley has the most experience running for political office. She's twice launched successful statewide campaigns for attorney general and twice for Middlesex district attorney.
It's her biggest loss, however - her 2010 defeat to Republican Scott Brown in the state's special U.S. Senator to fill the office left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy - that looms over her latest bid for higher office.
Despite her experience, Coakley's far from a shoo-in. In the Democratic primary she faces at least four other candidates, including state Treasurer Steven Grossman, who has deep roots in the state and national Democratic parties.
Grossman is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and is the early leader in the money race with about $628,000 in his campaign account.
Grossman issued a statement after Coakley announced she was running, calling himself "the only Democratic candidate who offers a lifetime of proven leadership in strengthening our economy."
Coakley's campaign account reported a balance of under $275,000 in its most recent filing with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Other Democrats already in the race include Newton pediatrician and former Obama administration health care official Don Berwick, former federal and state homeland security official Juliette Kayyem and former Wellesley selectman Joseph Avellone. State Sen. Dan Wolf's candidacy is on hold.
Berwick said in a statement that he welcomed Coakley's decision, which he said added to "a first-rate slate of Democratic candidates."
Kayyem, the only other woman running, has said she won't bow out and that she got into the race assuming Coakley would run.
A spokesman for Avellone said he also welcomed Coakley but said the contest is "a wide open race" that will define the state's future.
Coakley says she's taking nothing for granted as she tries to win over voters and party activists. She's also embarking on a three-day, 18 city and town barnstorming tour in an effort to dispel the aloof image she acquired during the 2010 Senate campaign.
"I know it's going to be a long, hard primary," she said.
Coakley also says she's learned from the 2010 loss, noting that after the defeat, she went back to work as attorney general and ran a successful re-election campaign.
"I got right back out shaking hands and meeting people," she said.
Patrick said he had no immediate plans to endorse any of the Democratic hopefuls.
"It's a broad and deep Democratic field. It's an exciting Democratic field and I think it's going to be a robust primary," said Patrick.
Asked if he had advice for the candidates, Patrick, who won two gubernatorial contests, said: "Keep it positive and talk about the future. Make it about the people we serve and not the ambitions of the candidates."
Republican Charlie Baker is also running. The former head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care ran for governor against Patrick in 2010 and lost.
Republican party leaders have been quick to skewer Coakley's decision.
"With Coakley repeating the same disastrous mistakes that doomed her last run for higher office, now Massachusetts Democrats have yet another bad option," state Republican Party Chairman Kirsten Hughes said.
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