Four of the five candidates running for governor talked about affordable housing, the fishing industry, education and even car inspection stickers today during a forum sponsored by The Island Institute.

The first forum of the fall campaign season gave the candidates a chance to talk policy – and trade a few barbs – in front of a crowd of about 75 at The Strand Theatre in Rockland.

Right from the start, independent Eliot Cutler criticized Republican Paul LePage for having said during the primary that he would support oil drilling off the coast of Maine.

I wish Paul LePage were here today because one of the things we need to make clear is we’re not going to allow any drilling offshore in Maine,” Cutler said. “I find Paul’s support for off shore drilling unconscionable.”

LePage, who is mayor of Waterville, did not attend the forum because of a scheduling conflict, said his Chief of Staff John Morris. Deputy Campaign Manager John McGough said LePage supports “any type of new energy source that will lower the cost of energy in Maine.”

He went on to say that LePage is focused on “pocketbook” issues and the campaign doesn’t hear many Mainers talking about offshore drilling.

It’s one of those red herring issues,” he said. “I think it’s a political consultant issue.”

Cutler, of Cape Elizabeth, was joined at the forum by Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, the Democratic nominee, and independents Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover.

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