Healey’s ascension coincides with the dispiriting collapse of politics in Mass.

Maura Healey. Photo (cc) 2015 by Charlie Baker. Yes, that’s what the photo credit says. Yes, I realize that’s Baker on the left-hand side of the frame.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz’s withdrawal from the gubernatorial race on Thursday underscores the astonishing collapse of politics in Massachusetts. This is a state where politics has traditionally been a year-round sport. In the past, an open governor’s seat would have attracted multiple candidates. Instead, Attorney General Maura Healey will run uncontested for the Democratic nomination and will probably beat either of the two Republicans who are running.

The Axios Boston headline this morning puts it this way: “AG Healey on track to be Massachusetts’ first elected female governor.” In June. Nearly five months before Election Day.

Contrast what’s happening today with 1990, when Gov. Michael Dukakis retired. Three prominent Democrats sought the nomination — Boston University president John Silber, Attorney General Frank Bellotti and Lieutenant Gov. Evelyn Murphy. Although Murphy ended up withdrawing, Silber beat Bellotti in a closely fought race. Silber, in turn, was defeated by former federal prosecutor Bill Weld, who won the Republican nomination by beating House Republican leader Steve Pierce.

More recently, in 2006, a relatively unknown former Justice Department official, Deval Patrick, won the Democratic primary for governor with less than 50% of the vote against businessman Chris Gabrieli and Attorney General Tom Reilly. That November, Patrick defeated Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and several independent candidates, the most prominent of whom was the late businessman Christy Mihos.

So how did Healey end up running unopposed for the Democratic nomination? There are some unique factors at play. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker took his time in announcing he wouldn’t seek another term, which gave a significant advantage to the well-known, well-funded Healey. Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh decided he’d rather stay in Washington than run for governor.

I worry, though, that we’re all losing interest in politics. Healey is first-rate, smart, personable and progressive. After her, though, who? U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley? Boston Mayor Michelle Wu? Maybe. Both are at a relatively early stage of their political careers — especially Wu — so perhaps we just have to give it time.

As for the Republicans, who have produced a slew of governors over the years to act as a moderating force against the dominant Democrats, the situation is sad indeed. Two Republicans are running for governor this year. One, state Rep. Geoff Diehl, is a full-blown Trumper. The other, businessman Chris Doughty, is trying to position himself as a Baker-style moderate — but he opposes abortion rights and has taken stands that suggest he supporters deeper tax cuts than Baker would support.

For those of us who’ve been following Massachusetts politics for years, it’s a dispiriting time. I hope it’s just temporary.

Three must-reads from today’s Globe

Manager of the Year?

I usually make the New York Times my first Sunday read, but there’s so much local news going on that I reached for the Boston Globe instead. I’m glad I did.

1. Was it Hunter Thompson who coined the phrase “to make a jackal puke”? Whoever it was, it definitely applies to Todd Wallack’s story on Massachusetts CEOs who reward themselves with ever-larger compensation packages even as their revenues dip and they lay off workers. Special bonus: the poster boy for this bad behavior is Sean Healey, husband of former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, who paid himself $18 million in 2009 — a 73 percent increase over the previous year.

2. Red Sox  beat reporter Amalie Benjamin has a terrific overview of the disappointing season that ends today. She correctly observes that Terry Francona should get Manager of the Year for his skillful handling of a team decimated by injuries and underperformers. Then again, Francona should get Manager of the Year every year. While you’re at it, give a listen to general manager Theo Epstein’s interview with the “Sports Hub” (98.5 FM) — so interesting I found myself driving around on Friday so I could catch the whole thing.

3. I have no intention of seeing “The Town,” but I have little doubt that columnist Kevin Cullen’s profile of Charlestown lawyer Charlie Clifford, defender of small-time bank robbers, is a hell of a lot more enlightening — not to mention entertaining.

Photo (cc) by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

Kerry Healey will not pre-empt the Red Sox

The city’s daily papers strain for significance in reporting on the debut of two shows on NESN, home of the Red Sox and the Bruins. The programs are “Shining City,” to be hosted by former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, and “After the Game,” co-produced by Linda Pizzuti Henry.

First up is Jessica Heslam of the Boston Herald, who reported on the new programs (sub. req.) on Aug. 13. Although Heslam’s account of Healey’s innovation-and-technology show and Henry’s sports-celebrity program was pretty straightforward, she also wrote:

“Shining City” rolls out as NESN, the flagship station for the Boston Red Sox, beefs up its lifestyle programming. The network has lost 36 percent of its viewers from last year as the injury-plagued Sox struggled this season.

Today the Globe’s Johnny Diaz goes one better than Heslam by not simply laying out the fact that Red Sox ratings are slipping, but also tying it all together with a neat bow. He writes:

The shows, called “After The Game” and “Shining City,” are an attempt by the station to reach new viewers who aren’t necessarily sports fans but who may watch entertainment and science-related shows, as the network’s bread-and-butter programming — baseball games — is declining.

I believe this is called the “if-then fallacy.”

Here is the fundamental problem: It’s not as though Healey and Henry are going to pre-empt Red Sox games, or even the pre-game and post-game shows. Healey’s program will cablecast on Fridays at 4:30 p.m., followed by something called “Pocket Money” at 5 and then “After the Game” at 5:30. There will be plenty of repetitions during the week as well, but NESN will continue to offer a one-hour pre-game show, and Tom Caron will keep right on yelling at you as soon as the game is over.

It’s not that Red Sox ratings aren’t down. They are. But that is irrelevant to the debut of two new programs in time slots that don’t crowd any Sox-related programming. The Sox are still one of the biggest televisions draws in New England, as Diaz himself notes: “Five Red Sox games last week ranked among the top 10 most-watched shows in Boston.”

So why try to tie the new shows to declining baseball ratings? Because the urge to come up with an interesting story line — a narrative — is irresistible. Even when there is none.

Is Hudak putting words in Brown’s mouth again?

Is North Shore congressional candidate William Hudak putting words in U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s mouth again?

According to the Salem News, Hudak, a right-wing Republican who once posted signs in his Boxford yard comparing Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, was the source of a rumor that former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey would run for Congress — a rumor that a former aide to Healey quickly denied.

Hudak, in turn, said he got it from Brown, whose staff would not confirm it.

Hudak, of course, got into trouble when he claimed that Brown had endorsed him the day after Brown’s victory in the special Senate election. Hudak has apologized, but he has never explained why he thought it was all right for his campaign to put out a press release falsely quoting Brown as saying, “Bill was with us from the beginning and is the representative the people of the 6th District need.”

(Via Red Mass Group.)

Lesson not learned

Seth Gitell explains one of the fundamental mistakes of the McCain campaign:

I know from my own reporting that McCain campaign operatives examined the Deval Patrick-Kerry Healey race in 2006. They saw how Healey’s tough law and order ads not only failed but also sent the campaign into a downward spiral. Those mean-spirited [ads] alienated independent swing voters and had no resonance in what was then very much a “change” election. Yet despite that knowledge they made the same mistake.

Gitell’s right, and there’s a larger theme, too. For 10 years, McCain has been campaigning on the idea that he can offer a higher level of leadership and independence. But when it finally came time to deliver, he turned over the single most important political task he’s ever undertaken to “operatives.”

Everyone’s got operatives. In most successful campaigns, though, the operatives work for the candidate. Conversely, in many losing efforts, the candidate ends up doing whatever the operatives tell him or her. That was certainly the case with the hapless Healey, who, in a matter of two weeks, morphed from respected if little-known moderate to right-wing nut.

There is no such thing as candidates who are better than their campaigns.