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Opinion

OP/EXTRA | SCOT LEHIGH

The governor’s race: A plodding political palooka-fest

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joe Avellone, left, Don Berwick, center left, Martha Coakley, center, Steve Grossman, center right, and Juliette Kayyem.

AP Photo/The Berkshire Eagle, Stephanie Zollshan

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joe Avellone, left, Don Berwick, center left, Martha Coakley, center, Steve Grossman, center right, and Juliette Kayyem.

Sometimes you don’t know whether to shake your head or look for a wall to hit it against.

What am I talking about? The Massachusetts governor’s race.

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We’re a state with a reputation for smart, interesting politics. Or at least we were.

So let’s consider the state of this campaign.

Democratic hopeful Steve Grossman has spent the last month or so trying to portray rival Martha Coakley as an NRA ally. His reasoning: The NRA opposes limiting gun purchases to one a month; Coakley opposes limiting gun purchases to one a month. Therefore, Coakley is taking the NRA’s position.

But let’s suppose you’re not a member of the Faulty Syllogism Club. You might just find yourself wondering whether Coakley, who supports closing the gun-show loophole and banning assault weapons, can fairly be lumped with the NRA.

Then, when you learn her last grade from the NRA was a big red F, you might find yourself asking a different question: Is Treasurer Grossman really that easily confused — or does he just think that his fellow Democrats can be?

If Grossman wants to offer a fairer criticism of Coakley, there’s an obvious target: the AG’s “don’t let the people vote” stand on the proposed ballot question to repeal casino gambling. The attorney general is supposed to be the people’s lawyer; given that, you’d think she’d be in favor of certifying petitions whenever legally plausible.

But in disallowing the casino question, Coakley has adopted this odd corporatist stance: Ballot questions can’t take property. Contracts can be considered property. The application process for a casino license imparts implicit contract rights to the casino companies. Therefore, casino-gambling repeal can’t be on the ballot.

As Coakley’s point man on ballot questions told the Supreme Judicial Court this week, that (highly inventive) argument was first offered up by the gambling interests. So there, Grossman could fairly charge Coakley with adopting their position.

Hmm. I wonder why he hasn’t. So let’s ask: Does Grossman think the casino-repeal question should make the ballot? “Like Governor Patrick, I’ve supported the expansion of casino gaming in Massachusetts because it holds the potential to create 15,000 good paying jobs, but of course, I will support the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision as to whether or not this question should be on the ballot in the fall,” Grossman declared in a statement his campaign released.

But does Grossman himself think the repeal question should be on the ballot, I asked his spokesperson. “He said ‘I will support the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision as to whether or not this question should be on the ballot in the fall,’ ” she emailed back. “It’s in their hands.”

Aha. If we were playing Political Wheel of Fortune, we’d all be saying: I’ll try to solve the puzzle. It’s … A major-league wimp-out.

The lesser Democratic candidates, meanwhile, have gotten a little lost, though I did spot Don Berwick explaining his campaign views on health care to the Washington Post and Vox. Coming next: Berwick’s big interview with Paris Match.

With things so lackluster on the left, let’s look rightward.

“Mass. Republicans in disarray as elections draw near,” read a recent Globe story chronicling the dissension within the party. The Mass. GOP in disarray, you say? Whoever would have guessed? I’m being sarcastic, of course. The man-bites-dog headline here would be: “Mass. Republicans not in disarray as elections draw near.”

The big controversy on the GOP side hasn’t been whether an issue should make the ballot but rather whether gubernatorial hopeful Mark Fisher should. Fisher has charged that skulduggery at the party’s March convention blocked his quest; at one point, like Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame, he might have been willing to cease and desist if the Republican Party gave him ... one million dollars. But now, as the result of Friday developments in court, it looks like the Tea Party conservative will have a primary ballot spot after all.

As for Charles D. Baker Jr., he continues apace in his quest to rebrand himself as good-guy Charlie; thus the “Charlie for Gov” press operation pumps out release after release in which “Charlie” urges Beacon Hill Democrats to take actions “Charlie” knows they wouldn’t consider if their mothers’ lives depended on it. Or their pensions, even.

The man who ran as Snarly Charlie in 2010 obviously hopes this endless email and Internet “Charlie”-ing will render him — or at least his image — folksy and friendly. But honestly, it’s more than a little cloying. What’s next? “Charlie: Yes-indeedy-do on the death penalty.”

Maybe I’m just suffering from political fatigue here in the Land of the Endless Campaign, but so far, this plodding political pursuit feels like a protracted palooka-fest. Sometimes I wish they’d all take a cue from Scott Brown.

Geographically, that is. By which I mean: Couldn’t some of them go campaign in New Hampshire for a little while?

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.
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