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Massachusetts attorney general leads pack in race for governor: poll

Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Martha Coakley (R) greets supporters outside the polling station where she cast her ballot in the s
Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Martha Coakley (R) greets supporters outside the polling station where she cast her ballot in the s

BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is way out in front of both her Democratic primary rivals and the leading Republican contender in the race for governor, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

Coakley, the Bay State's top prosecutor since 2006, was supported by 56 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, according to the Suffolk University/Boston Herald survey.

She also drew 44 percent to 31 percent for Republican Charlie Baker when likely voters of both parties were asked about their choice in November's general election. Baker is a former hospital executive and has served in the administrations of prior Republican governors.

The current governor, Democrat Deval Patrick, cannot run for a third term.

In 2010, Coakley ran for U.S. Senate in a special election to fill the seat held by Senator Edward Kennedy after he died. She lost to Republican Scott Brown in an upset that stunned Democrats in the liberal-leaning state and drew criticism that Coakley had run a halfhearted campaign.

Like Brown and Massachusetts' last Republican governor, Mitt Romney, Baker is seen as a member of the party's more moderate wing.

The telephone poll of 600 likely voters across Massachusetts showed other declared Democratic contenders trailing Coakley ahead of the September 9 primary. State Treasurer Steve Grossman had the support of 11 percent of likely voters, while Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official, was backed by 4 percent.

In the Republican primary, Baker was favored by 64 percent of likely voters to 10 percent for small business man and Tea Party supporter Mark Fisher. Twenty-five percent were undecided.

The poll also found that 60 percent of respondents across the state approved of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's decision last week to seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who will face trial in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed four people and injured 264 last April.

That marked a change from a September 2013 Boston Globe poll that found 57 percent of Boston residents preferring that Tsarnaev be imprisoned for life.

The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, meaning results could vary by that much either way.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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