FRAMINGHAM - Lamenting the perception that Martha Coakley is "cold," Congresswoman Katherine Clark on Friday said her former colleague, the Democratic hopeful for governor, is a politician in the same mold as the late Tom Menino.

Like the longtime Boston mayor, who passed away from cancer Thursday, the attorney general is "about people," Clark told a small audience at an event hosted by the 495/MetroWest Partnership at the Sheraton Hotel Friday morning.

"Her whole career has been about people," she said, adding it's been difficult for her and others who know Coakley personally to see the candidate saddled with a reputation of being detached. "That's not who she is."

Clark, who attended Friday's candidate event in place of Coakley due to a late scheduling conflict, touted Coakley's efforts as a state prosecutor, district attorney, and attorney general working on behalf of citizens, calling her the "best manager I've ever been able to work with." She also answered questions from the audience on behalf of Coakley about what the Democrat's administration could do to improve transportation, the economy, and energy and water service infrastructure in the region.

Coakley's main opponent, Republican Charlie Baker, spoke at a 495/MetroWest Partnership event on Monday. The organization, which doesn't endorse anyone in the race, tries to organize the candidate meetings each election season, executive director Paul Matthews said.

"Our next governor needs to recognize our growing economic importance," he said, pointing to recent data confirming MetroWest's status as a destination for both highly educated employees as well as major businesses in burgeoning economic sectors like health care and biotechnology.

Clark, a Democrat elected to U.S. Senator Ed Markey's former congressional seat last December, said she's quickly become an "evangelist" for the region, and praised the 495/MetroWest Partnership for advocating on behalf of it. She said Coakley, who previously worked in the region as Middlesex District Attorney, would also be tuned into its needs as governor.

Specifically, she said Coakley would be willing to make needed investments in MetroWest, especially long-planned transportation projects like rapid transit and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

"I hear a lot about spending - we need to rein it in. But there's a difference between spending and investment," she said, adding funding for key public projects that support business "keep(s) our economy going."

Clark also knocked Baker for supporting ballot question No. 1 in Tuesday's election, which seeks to repeal a measure tying gas tax increases in the state to inflation.

"That's code for 'we're going to pull back,' and we can't afford to do that," she said, adding the tax hikes are needed to fund road and bridge projects in the state.

Scott O'Connell can be reached at 508-626-4449 or Follow him on Twitter: @ScottOConnellMW