Will the real Katherine Clark please stand up? Make that speak up.

State Senator Clark is running to fill Massachusetts 5th congressional seat vacated by Ed Markey. She topped the crowded field in October’s special election primary, winning 32 percent of the vote. But, since then she’s been operating a cautious and guarded campaign, speaking to groups and pressing the flesh one on one, but refusing to debate her Republican opponent Frank Addivinola.

Bad enough that the special election itself has been under the radar. Worse that Clark has ignored Frank Addivinola’s pleas for one on one debates; she’s even ignored his public shaming like the article he wrote provocatively titled “Why is Katherine Clark afraid of the voters?”  She has not only refused to debate him, she has also turned down opportunities to appear with him in non-debate formats.

By all accounts Clark has held a substantial lead so I'm puzzled about how a debate would harm her. I do know that facing off with her opponent, either in a debate format or a side-by-side forum, shows a sign of respect to the voters---all of the voters—those voters in the Mass 5th district and those beyond, who she’ll represent as a part of the Massachusetts delegation.

Clark is not the first to employ this avoidance strategy—freshman Congressman Joseph Kennedy did the same thing. It protects the presumed winner from making a sill remark or major gaffe. That’s always possible, but facing the folks who don’t agree with you is part of the job; not engaging with her opponent deprives Clark’s would be constituents the chance for informed comparison.

This is not the competent and confident politician Clark appeared to be in the charming campaign TV ads featuring her equally impressive mother. Last Friday, Clark finally agreed to one debate moderated my WGBH colleague Jim Braude effectively running out the clock.  Her decision to hide in plain sight until virtually the last minute is disgraceful.

Many are predicting that Katherine Clark will win tomorrow’s fifth district congressional race. She’ll have taken the fifth all right; I just wish it hadn’t been her silence that paved the way to victory.

Callie Crossley is the host of Under the Radar.