As they marched along the narrow streets of Charlestown in the Bunker Hill Day Parade Sunday, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steven Grossman both had something to prove.
It had a lot to do with convincing voters that she or he was the Democrat best poised to beat the man who was marching between them — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker.
Coakley, coming off a second-place finish at Saturday’s state party convention and aiming to outrun the shadow of her 2010 US Senate loss, worked the crowd assiduously. She jogged back and forth along the street in white Keds, amiably shaking hands and wishing the parade-watchers along the route a happy Bunker Hill Day.
Grossman, who polls have found trails Coakley by more than 30 percentage points in a primary matchup, sharpened attacks against her in interviews, questioning her progressive credentials and insisting he was best suited to beat Baker in November.
The parade marked the start of a 12-week sprint to the Sept. 9 primary election, when voters will choose the Democratic nominee for governor. Donald M. Berwick, former Obama administration health care administrator, will also be on the Democratic ballot; he attended a block party in Jamaica Plain Sunday evening.
In a nod to the effort ahead and the desire to create that key ingredient of political success —
Grossman said he will begin a tour focused on economic growth and jobs and listening to residents discuss those issues.
It will be called a “One Commonwealth” tour, a spokeswoman said, and will begin with a stop at a career center in Salem.
Coakley will launch an “On Our Terms” listening tour focused on discussing how the state can craft an economy that gives “every resident and every region” of Massachusetts “a fair shot,” according to an e-mail from her spokeswoman, Bonnie McGilpin. It will begin with Coakley discussing wages and benefits with fast-food workers in Dorchester, McGilpin said.
Both tours come on the heels of Saturday’s state party convention in Worcester, where Grossman won the most votes from party delegates and, subsequently, the convention endorsement by acclamation. In her speech there, Coakley addressed the issue of her loss to Scott Brown in 2010, promising to outwork everybody in the gubernatorial race.
That is a sentiment she echoed on Sunday, before she took to passing from one side of the parade route to the other, palm first.
“I need to, I know, show people — and I believe I’m doing that and I’ll continue to do it — that I’m in this race to win,” Coakley said, as a nearby marching brand played “Anchors Aweigh.”
Grossman took a sharper edge against her. In interviews with reporters before the parade, he questioned her liberal bona fides. Over the din of bagpipers, he said she is a “part-time progressive” and “a career prosecutor,” while he is a “progressive job-creator.”
And he said he considered himself better suited than Coakley to go head-to-head with Baker in November, in part because of his private-sector experience, alluding to his longtime involvement with his family’s marketing business.
Asked about some of Grossman’s criticisms, Coakley declined to answer, instead pointing to what she has done as attorney general and pledging to stand up for people and be a voice for them as governor.
Berwick, for his part, said in a telephone interview that his message, post-party convention, would continue to emphasize issues such as his opposition to casino gambling in the state and his push to end hunger and poverty.
“I know what I believe, I know what I want to make happen, and I’m not going to change my song,” he said.
Berwick said he did not plan to go on the attack against his Democratic opponents, insisting “the contrast is there.”
Speaking to reporters before he began marching, Baker offered a general criticism of Coakley, Grossman, and Berwick, saying they were “from the tax-and-spend part of the Democratic Party” and “from the left-wing of the Democratic Party.”
Along the route, which wound through Charlestown and was lined with multitudes of people, most in a festive mood, Baker was greeted warmly, even by those who later said they would vote for a Democrat.
One Baker supporter was Steve McNamara, a 32-year-old resident of the North End, who unexpectedly lobbed a football at Baker as he made his way down the street. Baker caught it, prompting a cheer from the crowd. McNamara said he was an independent and supported Baker because he cared about “fiscal responsibility.”
Also running for governor is another Republican and three independent candidates.
Many in the crowd were supportive of Coakley as she exchanged the briefest of greetings with them before jogging away.
“Happy Bunker Hill Day,” she told South Boston resident Edward Kennedy, who was holding daughter Mairead. Kennedy said he was a Coakley supporter, adding “I think she’d do a hell of a lot better in the front office than what’s going on now.”
John Walsh, a Chelsea attorney who attended the convention and supported Coakley there, spotted her sprinting up the street. “Take a day off!” he told her, good-naturedly.
“I don’t get one till November,” Coakley replied, moving on to shake other spectators’ hands.