With the primary for the special election only a week away, the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate face a critical stretch in the race to permanently succeed the state’s most famous legislator — the late Edward Kennedy.

With interim senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. currently holding down the fort in Washington, the four Democrats — Attorney General Martha Coakley, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei — will spar this week in two more debates and zip across the state urging voters for their support.

Though they are seeking to carve out their own legacy in Washington, here’s how the Democratic candidates draw from Kennedy.

 

Martha Coakley
She has billed herself as “a different kind of leader,” but Coakley’s work as a prosecutor and attorney general have put her at the center of the war against injustices on issues such as predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis. Kennedy has done the same on workers’ and civil rights.

Steve Pagliuca
Kennedy fought to put more Bay State residents to work during his time in the Senate, and Pagliuca has promised to push for investments in growing industries. He’s also tried to separate himself from the other candidates by saying it would be a tribute to Kennedy to pass the health care bill.

Michael Capuano
Much like Kennedy, Capuano is often a fiery orator when it comes to issues he’s passionate about, such as yesterday during a debate when he echoed a campaign message that his experience in Washington will give him a leg up on the competition. Capuano has also tried to tie his record to Kennedy’s on issues such as the Iraq War.

Alan Khazei
Kennedy stressed the importance of national service, an issue Khazei also championed. He co-founded City Year in Boston, which helped spark AmeriCorps, and he worked with the late senator to create a national service bill.