[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/03/art.coakley.cnn.jpg caption="Coakley is running for the Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy."](CNN) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley Thursday formally announced her bid for the state's vacant Senate seat long held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"We face a crisis of confidence. We have lost our distinguished and tenacious senator, Ted Kennedy," Coakley said Thursday in an event surrounded by supporters. "We have depended upon him in the Common Wealth and in Washington, and we will miss his strength, his leadership, and his sense of humor. As some have noted, no one can fill his shoes, but we must strive to follow in his footsteps."
Coakley is the first candidate on either side to officially enter the race for the seat that for over four decades was held by Kennedy, who died last week. The move comes days after Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced a special election to fill the vacancy will be held on January 19, 2010 with party primaries to be held December 8.
"I believe government has to work well, and it has to work for everyone," said Coakley, a former district attorney and the state's attorney general since 2006. "I believe that is the promise democracy has been based and I believe it is time to renew that promise."
With Massachusetts effectively a one-party state - Democrats control the governorship and every congressional seat, and have overwhelming majorities in both houses of the state legislature - it's likely the Democratic primary race will ultimately determine the state's next senator.
Several other Massachusetts Democrats have not ruled out running for the seat, including Kennedy's nephew former Rep. Joseph Kennedy, who reportedly has close to $1.8 million left over from his campaign fund when he was a member of Congress 10 years ago.
A majority of the state's congressional delegation is also thought to be interested in the seat, including Reps. Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch and Jim McGovern. Former Rep. Marty Meehan, now the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, could also be interested and has almost $5 million in contributions at his disposal.
But one Massachusetts Democratic strategist who works with Coakley says the attorney general could be the best suited candidate politically because of her state-wide experience and base of support in Middlesex County, the state's most populous and wealthy swath which includes nearly all of Boston's suburbs. She'll also likely be the only woman seeking the seat in what may be a crowded field of men.
Speaking Thursday, Coakley dismissed the notion that she will be unable to raise a sufficient amount of money to launch a serious campaign.
"In the past I have been able to raise the money I need to. I believe I will here," She said. "We've been off to a good start. This is a race where money is necessary but not sufficient."
Massachusetts Democrats are now waiting on a decision from Joe Kennedy, who is likely to clear much of the field if he decides to run.
Two Democratic sources in Massachusetts tell CNN Kennedy has been making calls to some friends and political players around the state to "talk issues," as one of the sources put it.
The clear signal, both sources said, is that he is thinking about it. Doubt remains that Kennedy is interested in making a bid for the seat, but the calls are making people think he is at least giving it a serious look," the sources said.
Follow Alex Mooney on Twitter
- CNN's John King and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report