Healey takes a powder

Good news--some of Boston's civic heavy hitters (the Globe, NECN, Harvard's Kennedy School, MassINC, and WBUR) are teaming up to sponsor a live gubernatorial debate on the economy. It's scheduled for May 18, at the eminently reasonable hour of 7 p.m.; the full press release follows.

Here's the bizarre part: lieutenant governor Kerry Healey isn't participating. That'd be a questionable move under any circumstances, but given the Republican nominee's recent call for four debates, it's especially strange.

When I asked NECN's* Doreen Vigue why Healey wasn't taking part, she sounded baffled. "We have no idea," Vigue said. "...You'll have to ask her people the reason behind it. They just declined."

I'll try to get an explanation from the Healey camp this afternoon. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here's what we have to look forward to later this month:

Gubernatorial candidates to meet for first live broadcast debate

Debate on the economy sponsored by The Boston Globe, the Kennedy School of Government, MassINC, NECN, and WBUR set for May 18

Boston, May 1, 2006 – Four of the five major candidates for Governor – Chris Gabrieli, Christy Mihos, Deval Patrick and Attorney General Tom Reilly – will meet at 7 PM. on the evening of May 18 th for a debate focused on jobs, the economy and cost of living in Massachusetts. The debate, which will be held at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, will air live on New England Cable News and WBUR 90.9 and will be moderated by NECN’s R.D. Sahl. This debate marks the first live broadcast debate of the campaign season. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey declined to participate.

The debate consortium includes The Boston Globe, the Kennedy School of Government, The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), New England Cable News and WBUR. The panel of journalists will be: Ken Cooper of the Kennedy School, Scott Helman of The Boston Globe, Robert Keough, editor of CommonWealth magazine, Alison King of NECN, and Bob Oakes of WBUR 90.9.

“We are honored to host the candidates here at the Kennedy School,” said David T. Ellwood, Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. “This promises to be a major event in the 2006 political season.”

“Cost of living has emerged as a central challenge for the Commonwealth. It is impacting our ability to attract and retain the most skilled workforce in the nation. We thought it was important to hear from the candidates about this critical set of issues early in the political season,” said Ian Bowles, President of MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank that publishes CommonWealth magazine.

“In depth political coverage is a calling card of NECN. We are proud to offer a live substantive debate at a time when viewers can actually see it,” said Charles Kravetz, NECN's Vice President of News and Programming. “The Commonwealth faces many important issues and this year's campaign and election deserve our commitment to thoughtful political discourse.”

“This is an opportunity to get beyond sound bites and engage the candidates on the issues – among the most important ones facing our state,” said Martin Baron, editor of The Boston Globe. “We are pleased to work with the candidates and our outstanding partners in making this debate possible.”

Because no candidates are officially on the ballot at this stage, the consortium used criteria of political viability – defined as name recognition, evidence of electoral support, and ability to raise funds – to determine which candidates to invite to the May 18 th debate.

*NOTE: I originally--and incorrectly--identified Vigue as a Globe employee.

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