OK, sure, a debate for state auditor or secretary of state isn’t likely to generate scintillating television. But the way that heavily favored Democratic candidates for statewide offices are avoiding debates this year, using every trick out of the front-runner’s playbook, ought to trouble voters. Could we at least pretend to be a grown-up democracy in which candidates have to make their case to voters instead of simply coasting to election day?
The Democratic nominee for governor, Maura Healey, has committed to only one debate with her GOP opponent, Geoff Diehl. Favorites never want to give underdogs airtime, but in this case, it’s hard to see what Healey is worried about: Turning down more debates with Diehl, the GOP’s unsuccessful Senate nominee in 2018, is like the Patriots turning down extra chances to play the Jets.
But at least she’s showing more regard for voters than attorney general candidate Andrea Campbell, who has yet to agree to any debates with her GOP opponent Jay McMahon. Healey debated McMahon in 2018, when both were candidates for attorney general, and it hardly put a dent in Healey’s reelection campaign.
Meanwhile, Democratic state auditor candidate state Senator Diana DiZoglio has offered a classic front-runner dodge, saying she’s willing to debate her Republican opponent only if third-party candidates are included too. The GOP candidate, Anthony Amore, is the class of the Republican ticket this year, so it’s perhaps a bit more understandable that DiZoglio might seek to dodge a one-on-one encounter. But that’s no excuse for depriving voters of a debate. Indeed, it’s an important reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to. A debate with all candidates is fine but should be followed by another one limited to major-party candidates.
Then there’s Rayla Campbell, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, who made waves with a vulgar rant at the state GOP convention in May. Asked by NBC10 what the biggest misconception about her was, she said: “They call me right wing and that I’m crazy and extreme.” Incumbent Democrat William F. Galvin, running for his eighth term, should welcome any opportunity to explore that proposition in a debate.
How did a basic part of the electoral process become endangered? An article published Wednesday in CommonWealth magazine linked the decline in debates in Massachusetts to the growing political polarization of America and an electorate that’s increasingly not open to persuasion anyway.
Maybe so. But it’s also a particularly Massachusetts story about the irrelevance of the state Republican Party in its current incarnation. Democrats are skipping debates because they know they can — because with the exception of increasingly rare centrist candidates like Amore and outgoing governor Charlie Baker, the state GOP doesn’t even bother nominating candidates with any chance of winning over the state’s political middle.
Ultimately, the best way for Massachusetts Republicans to get the debates they’re clamoring for this year is to make it politically impossible for Democrats to dodge them. But until then, voters are left to hope that Democrats agree to debates simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.