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Globe Editorial

An inspiring governor’s race slides depressingly downhill

October 9, 2010

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THE SKULDUGGERY surrounding the defection of independent candidate Tim Cahill’s running mate, Paul Loscocco, is a deeply unfortunate development in the campaign for governor. The race, after all, had been shaping up as unusually sharp, high-minded, and issues-focused — which is to say, it was the kind of race voters say they want.

It may now turn into the kind of race voters hate — one in which every side tries to score points with allegations against each other. Such affairs usually end with each candidate’s diehard supporters feeling convinced that their man or woman has been unfairly targeted, while sensible undecided voters put their hands to their ears. In the end, the public will become both more polarized and more cynical.

In an 11th-hour statement yesterday afternoon, Loscocco said he left Cahill’s ticket because Cahill “essentially admitted’’ to colluding with Governor Patrick’s campaign and the Democratic Governors Association. This claim seems intended to have a muddying effect: Loscocco is accusing Cahill, Patrick, and the national Democrats of doing essentially the same things that Cahill has accused GOP nominee Charlie Baker and the Republican Governors Association of doing.

Loscocco’s claims should be taken as seriously as anyone else’s in this sordid affair — except that he hadn’t, at press time, presented any evidence. Cahill, in suing the former aides who he claimed were colluding with the GOP, at least provided some intriguing emails.

Those emails raise a few pertinent questions. Cahill’s adviser-turned-betrayer John Weaver wrote, “Paul [Loscocco] will be given/offered a substantive lifeline. Up to him to take it or not.’’ But who was doing the giving? Baker insists it wasn’t him, but if his campaign were offering Loscocco a job as a reward for stabbing Cahill in the back, it would be unsavory, to say the least.

More likely, the overture to Loscocco was coming from the Republican governors’ group, which has pursued Cahill with the relentlessness of Captain Ahab. It was the RGA that first sullied the campaign with its over-the-top attack ads against Cahill. (Liberal-leaning independent groups have since joined the fray.)

The RGA’s role is all the more problematic because Baker is obliged by law to keep a distance from its activities, and can therefore can enjoy all the benefits of its shenanigans without any of the liabilities. But he should make it clear that he objects to the group’s intrusion into the campaign, particularly its role in encouraging mutiny among Cahill’s staff.

Hopefully, the damage in this affair will be limited to Loscocco, Weaver, former Cahill strategist John Yob, and a few other aides. Whatever the circumstances, it’s safe to say that all of them should be fitted for Benedict Arnold’s frock coat.

The impact on the three would-be governors, one hopes, will be more limited. But that will depend on the extent of future revelations. From here on, all involved must do everything in their power to stimulate an issues-oriented campaign with a high-minded tone. Voters should settle for nothing less.

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