AUGUSTA – Republican U.S. Senate nominee Charlie Summers has bowed out of two candidate forums in Augusta, and a disability rights group says it was hurt by his decision to skip its event Thursday.
Summers campaign manager Lance Dutson said the campaign decided to skip the forums — the Disability Rights Center’s event Thursday at the Le Club Calumet and the Maine Municipal Association’s event planned Oct. 4 at the Augusta Civic Center — because of scheduling conflicts, not issues with the groups holding the events.
Dutson said the campaign has been invited to about 20 debates or forums planned before Election Day, and he anticipates Summers getting to only “five or six” more.
“We’re trying to look at which ones we can fit in, but honestly our focus is probably going to be on the form of the televised debates,” he said.
Rick Langley, advocacy director for the Disability Rights Center, said a Summers staffer called him Wednesday afternoon to inform him of the cancellation, citing Summers’ schedule as Maine’s secretary of state.
Dutson said he skipped the debate for that reason. Langley said Summers booked the debate in August.
“We’re hurt,” said Kim Moody, the center’s executive director. “We’ve got 125 people with disabilities in the room who came to hear all candidates talk about our issues. … There are a lot of Republicans in there that came because he was coming.”
Megan Sanborn, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said Summers was working a half-day Thursday, using vacation time in the morning. She said he got to work at 1 p.m. and would be there until 5:30 p.m. His speaking slot at Thursday’s forum was 2:15 p.m.
Christopher Lockwood, the Maine Municipal Association’s executive director, said a Summers staffer called the association Wednesday to cancel his appearance at the forum in October. Lockwood said that debate was booked in July.
His main opponents, Democrat Cynthia Dill and independent Angus King, spoke at Thursday’s forum on issues affecting disabled people. They are scheduled to appear at the Maine Municipal Association’s forum, Lockwood said.
Interviewed after their appearances, neither wanted to say much about Summers’ decision to drop the two debates.
“That’s his call. It certainly disappointed the people here. He’s got to make his own decisions,” King said. “There are another 10 or 12 (forums) scheduled. Two isn’t quite a pattern. We’ll see.”
Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at: