On January 19, there will be a special election to fill the Senate seat that was previously held by Teddy Kennedy. Until recently, everyone assumed that Martha Coakley, the state Attorney General, would easily defeat Scott Brown, a Massachusetts State Senator. However, Rasmussen has released a poll showing that her lead has been reduced to a mere 9 points. Here is a description of both candidates as well as their major issue positions:

Martha Coakley
Coakley began her career as a civil attorney in Boston in 1979. She then moved to the District Attorney’s office in a series of counties in Massachusetts from 1986. She was elected District Attorney in Middlesex County in 1998 and served 8 years in that office. She was then elected as Massachusetts Attorney General and has served in that position since then.
The issues she emphasizes in her campaign are:

Health Care – She presumably is a solid vote for the package that is likely to be voted upon later this month (assuming that she wins). She wants to make health care reform that builds upon the health care package currently employed in Massachusetts.
Equal Rights/Opportunities – She believes that government should ensure fair treatment for all and equal opportunities.
Economy – Coakley wants government to invest in health care, energy, and education and increasing fiscal responsibility. This, she feels, will increase jobs in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown

Brown, following his graduation from law school in 1985, began a family law practice. His first foray into public office was as an assessor in Wrentham, Massachusetts. He then progressed in political office, being elected Selectman in 1995, a State Representative in 1998, then as State Senator in 2004. As a side note, apparently one of his daughters, Ayla, was a contestant on American Idol and is an accomplished basketball player.

The issues he emphasizes in his campaign are:
Health Care – Brown opposes the legislation currently under consideration in Congress and has said he will vote against it. His reasons for his opposition are that it will raise taxes, increase government spending, and lower the quality of Medicare.
Economy – He favors lowering taxes will encourage economic growth. He also wants to reduce wasteful spending in government.
Energy/environment – He wants to reduce pollution and reduce our dependence upon foreign oil. He proposes to do this by utilizing alternative fuel sources. He also supports cap and trade legislation.

My own analysis of this contest is that the closeness of it is probably due to three things:
1. Republicans are much more energized currently than are the Democrats. This was evident in the two gubernatorial elections last fall, and presumably continues in Massachusetts.
2. Republicans usually hold an advantage in special elections for a variety of reasons, including differential educational backgrounds, income, knowledge, etc. This is obviously an aggregate assessment.
3. Coakley’s campaign is incredibly lackluster. This may be because she has never won a legislative seat before, or she may just not be very exciting. Her issue positions on her web site are among the most bland I think I’ve ever read.