How do you know it’s August? If it wasn’t the slowest month of the year news-wise, would a candidate’s decision to skip an appearance before some Bangor business groups end up on front pages all over the state?®Democrat Libby Mitchell managed to pull off that feat by saying she would not debate Republican Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler unless the other two independent candidates, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott, were also invited.

She has been praised for her commitment to democracy by some and has been vilified for ducking debates that feature business interests by others.

Really, Mitchell deserves credit for pulling off a deft piece of political theater that put her name in the headlines and attracted more attention to her campaign than a late summer candidate forum ever would have. And she also gets to position Cutler as one of three independents instead of the sole alternative to the two major-party candidates. If political theater sounds like a bad thing, observers should remember that showing up for debates is political theater, too. (They are standing on a stage, after all.)

Mitchell and her staff understand that a key fact about these pre-season tune-ups is that very few people are paying attention. Republican Paul LePage has skipped a number of these events and the political price he has had to pay is nil.

The name of the game is communicating with voters, and if a candidate thinks she can do that better by not showing up, that’s her call.

It’s more important what the candidate has to say than where he or she says it, and that’s where our attention belongs. How they differ on education, energy or fiscal policy are the questions on which voters should be focussing as this campaign season begins to start in earnest.

August is rapidly coming to an end and the sleepy summer is almost over. Let’s see the campaigns fight about something that matters.

 


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