Gubernatorial contender Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell has pulled out of a Thursday morning forum because two unenrolled candidates were not invited to attend, organizers said this morning.

Mitchell, a Democrat, Republican Paul LePage and unenrolled candidate Eliot Cutler were all scheduled to appear at a “leadership roundtable” in Bangor to answer questions about cross-border economic development. It would have been the first time the three candidates appeared together. Unenrolled candidates Kevin Scott and Shawn Moody were not invited.

In a statement sent out this morning, Mitchell’s campaign said she has also informed the Maine Pulp and Paper Association that she won’t attend an upcoming forum for the same reason. Mitchell also called on her opponents to participate only in debates where all the candidates are invited.

“By winning primaries or gathering signatures, five candidates earned a spot on the general election ballot. At this early stage, when voters are still learning where the candidates stand and what their visions are for Maine, all of the candidates should be included in the debates,” Mitchell said in the statement. “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. Maine people prefer inclusion so that they can make up their own minds.”

The Thursday roundtable is part of Cross-Border Connection Day, sponsored by the Bangor Region Development Alliance, Bangor Metro and Maine Ahead magazines to highlight initiatives and opportunities between Maine and the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The Bangor Regional Chamber of Commerce is providing organizing support, according to President and CEO John Porter, who is also on the board of the regional development alliance.

Porter said this morning that he received a call from the Mitchell campaign, saying the candidate does not wish to appear at any forums that invited only LePage and 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.

Porter said event organizers had only invited the three because they considered them the frontrunners in the race. At this point, said Porter, there are no plans to invite the other two candidates to tomorrow’s breakfast forum. Porter said he did get a call from the Moody campaign this morning. It wasn’t a complaint, but more an attempt to understand the rationale behind the decision to include only Mitchell, LePage and Cutler, Porter said.

“The public polling shows that this is a two-person race between Libby and Paul LePage. If organizations want a debate with the frontrunners, then they would invite those two. If they want to include the independents, they should invite all three of them,” said Jesse Connolly, senior adviser to the Mitchell campaign, in the statement. “This race has a long way to go before the voters select the next governor. At some point it may make sense to invite only the frontrunners, but at this early stage, doing so is a disservice to Maine voters.” 

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