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A dearth of candidates for state attorney general

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BOSTON (AP) - It's one of the most powerful and coveted offices in state government, yet with the election just a year off, there still are no declared candidates for Massachusetts attorney general.

What makes the dearth of candidates even more unusual is the fact that the current attorney general, Martha Coakley, already has announced she's running for governor, leaving a wide-open race for the top law enforcement job.

So far, the list of would-be candidates who have opted out of the running is nearly as long as those mentioned as possible Coakley successors.

The one hopeful who has signaled his intention to jump in the race is state Rep. Harold Naughton, a Clinton Democrat. Naughton, who initially was eyeing a run for lieutenant governor, is expected to formally announce his candidacy for attorney general this week.

The anticipated announcement comes days after another potential candidate, Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter, said he wouldn't seek the seat. The Fall River Democrat is overseeing the murder case against former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.

Sutter joins a growing list of non-candidates, including state Secretary William Galvin, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley and state consumer affairs chief Barbara Anthony.

One presumed front-runner for the race would have been former Middlesex District Attorney Gerald Leone.

The state has a recent history of elevating Middlesex district attorneys to the top spot. Coakley was Middlesex district attorney before being elected attorney general, as were her two predecessors, Thomas Reilly and Scott Harshbarger.

Leone however, decided earlier this year to step back from politics, resigning as district attorney to become a partner in the law firm of Nixon Peabody.

Other Democrats mentioned as possible attorney general candidates include Lowell state Sen. Eileen Donoghue and former state Sen. Warren Tolman.

On the Republicans side, Gloucester state Sen. Bruce Tarr, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and Peter Flaherty, a former prosecutor and adviser to former Gov. Mitt Romney, are all possible attorney general candidates.

Sullivan ran in the GOP primary earlier this year for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by John Kerry's appointment as secretary of state. Sullivan lost the primary to GOP newcomer Gabriel Gomez, who lost in the general election to Edward Markey.

Attorney general isn't the only open seat on next year's ballot. State Treasurer Steven Grossman's decision to launch a bid for governor means he's giving up the treasurer's office after a single term.

Among the Democrats expected to jump into that race is former head of the Brookline Board of Selectmen Deborah Goldberg and state Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover. Goldberg ran for lieutenant governor in 2006 but lost to former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who resigned earlier this year.

On the Republican side, potential candidates include Gomez, the former Navy SEAL whose victory in the Republican U.S. Senate primary earlier this year raised his profile among Bay State Republicans.

Another possible Republican candidate is Karyn Polito, a former state representative from Shrewsbury who ran for treasurer in 2010 and lost to Grossman.

Gomez also has floated his name as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor. Governors and lieutenant governors run separately in their respective party primaries in Massachusetts, but Republican candidates in recent times have typically identified running mates earlier in the process.

Gomez has made it clear that former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO Charlie Baker, the only declared GOP candidate for governor, hasn't made him any offer.

Two Democrats already have declared their candidacies for lieutenant governor - Steve Kerrigan, a former Lancaster selectman and chief of staff to former Attorney General Thomas Reilly, and Mike Lake, executive director of the World Class Cities Partnership.

One contest with no shortage of declared candidates is the race for governor. Deval Patrick declared early on that he would not seek a third term, giving candidates plenty of time to launch campaigns.

Five Democrats are actively campaigning for the seat, including Coakley, Grossman, Newton pediatrician Don Berwick, former federal homeland security official Juliette Kayyem and former Wellesley Selectman Joseph Avellone.

State Sen. Dan Wolf has put his gubernatorial campaign on hold awaiting a final decision of the state Ethics Commission over his ownership interest in Cape Air, the regional airline he helped create 25 years ago. The commission has said Wolf must choose between his elected office and ownership stake due to contracts the airline has with the state.

Baker is alone on the Republican side.

Independent candidate, Evan Falchuk, also has said he's running.

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