The Maine Republican Party and GOPforME, a new spin-off organization, have set up nine U.S. Senate candidate forums around the state over the next nine weeks.

The forums will look somewhat like the presidential primary debates, with moderators and audience members asking questions of the six Republican Senate candidates. GOPforME also has set up a website to gather questions directly from voters. (

The first forum will be held in Presque Isle, Thursday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at the Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center.

Venues for the next eight forums are still being worked out, but here is the schedule as it stands now. Weekday forums will begin at 6, while the Saturday forum will start at 1 p.m.

— Kennebec Regional – Friday, April 13
— Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset Regional – Friday, April 20
— Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Regional – Friday, April 27
— Cumberland and Sagadahoc Regional – Wednesday, May 2
— York Regional – Wednesday, May 9
— Washington Regional – Friday, May 11
— Hancock Regional – Saturday, May 12
— Androscoggin, Oxford, and Franklin Regional – Saturday, May 19

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, meanwhile, will have their first debate in Portland on Saturday.

The Portland Club will be hosting the debate from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The club plans to host an identical forum for Republican candidates in the near future.

The six Republican candidates running in the June 12 primary are former State Sen. Rick Bennett, businessman Scott D’Amboise, State Sen. Debra Plowman, State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Attorney General William Schneider, and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

The four Democratic primary candidates are State Sen. Cynthia Dill, former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, State Rep. Jon Hinck and Benjamin Pollard, a Portland businessman.