Democratic nominee Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell has pulled out of at least two gubernatorial forums because two unenrolled candidates were not invited to attend.

She is encouraging her competition to do the same, but spokesmen for Republican Paul LePage and unenrolled candidate Eliot Cutler say their candidates are still attending.

Edward “Ted” O’Meara, Cutler’s campaign manager, suggested that Mitchell’s stand “has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with politics.”

“Groups that sponsor these events have every right to invite the candidates that they feel are the serious candidates,” O’Meara said. “To cancel something the day before with a stunt like this is rude.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Mitchell said all candidates who earned a spot on the general election ballot should be invited to participate in debates and forums.

“Using artificial thresholds to determine whom to invite to a debate will do a disservice to the voters, especially at this point in the race,” the statement said. “Maine people prefer inclusion so that they can make up their own minds.”

In addition to Cutler, the ballot includes unenrolled candidates Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott.

Michael Pajak, Scott’s campaign manager, said Wednesday he was glad to see Mitchell “kind of putting this stake in the ground.”

He said there is an “inherent unfairness” in excluding candidates from events.

Moody said he supported a group’s right to limit forums however they choose, but he gave credit to Mitchell for making a stand on including all candidates.

“To get a balanced, objective forum, to me, you need all of them,” Moody said.

Groups that had invited only Mitchell, LePage and Cutler said they had no plans to extend invitations to Moody and Scott. With a limited amount of time for forums, they said, organizers preferred to hear from candidates they considered front-runners.

It’s not uncommon in primary and general elections for groups to filter out whom they invite, narrowing the field down based on whom they consider to be viable candidates.

Mitchell, LePage and Cutler were set to appear in a forum in Bangor this morning. The forum was a “leadership roundtable,” and the three were to answer questions about cross-border economic development. It would have been the first time the three candidates appeared together.

Scott and Moody were not invited.

The roundtable was sponsored by the Bangor Region Development Alliance, Bangor Metro and Maine Ahead magazines, with organizational support from the Bangor Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President and CEO John Porter said he thought Mitchell’s campaign preferred to have other unenrolled candidates on the stage, beyond just Cutler.

“I think they feel that if Eliot has the stage to himself as the only independent candidate, that just strengthens him as a candidate,” said Porter.

Both Cutler’s and LePage’s camps said their candidates were still attending.

“Paul will be there to discuss energy policy and how to lower the electric bills of hard-working Maine people,” said Bob Morris, his campaign manager.

Mitchell said she had also informed organizers of a forest products forum scheduled for Sept. 2 that she would not be attending because Moody and Scott were excluded. And organizers of a tourism-industry event set for Sept. 9 had only invited Cutler, LePage and Mitchell, though the Democratic candidate had not yet contacted them to cancel.

Porter said organizers of today’s event had only invited the three because they considered them the front-runners in the race. John Williams, president of the Maine Pulp & Paper Foundation, said his group and other sponsors of the Sept. 2 forum decided to limit participation to three candidates because the forum can only run for about 90 minutes.

“It certainly wasn’t a reflection on the other two candidates,” Williams said. “We felt we really needed to use our time the best we could.”

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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