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Summers Skips Debates in Maine U.S. Senate Race
10/04/2012   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Republican Senate candidate Charlie Summers is taking heat from Independent Angus King's campaign for dropping out of seven previously scheduled candidates' debates and forums, including two that are planned later today. The Summers campaign has suggested that it has scheduling conflicts, including a series of town hall meetings Summers is hosting. Susan Sharon has more.

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The executive director of the Maine Women's Policy Center says she thought she'd scored something of a coup when she got all six candidates in the U.S. Senate race to agree to debate women's issues tonight at the University of Southern Maine.

Eliza Townsend says her organization and the other co-sponsors of the event had the details nailed down a couple of months ago. Because women are being touted as the big deciders in this election, Townsend is expecting a big turnout. So she was disappointed when she got a message from the Summers campaign last week.

"We received an email on the 26th of September from his scheduler saying that they would be focusing their energies on town halls across the state," Townsend says. "We were obviously disappointed and reminded the campaign that he'd been committed for a good long time."

Summers has also dropped out of an upcoming forum on foreign policy, one on health care and one being hosted by the Maine Municipal Association this afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center. MMA spokesman Eric Conrad says details for the candidates' forum had been finalized by the middle of July. And like Townsend, Conrad says he got a message from the Summers campaign saying the town hall meeting schedule presented a conflict.

"Charlie has apparantly scheduled a bunch of town hall meetings around the state and they wanted to prepare for a few televised debates. That's what they cited," Conrad says.

Summers does have a town hall-style meeting scheduled in Kennebunkport, but it isn't until Friday. His campaign spokesman Drew Brandewie says he also is scheduled to receive a couple of key endorsements this afternoon. And he says that Summers is participating in plenty of debates in his campaign for U.S. Senate.

"He's done 10 debates in the primary and we've done three debates so far: one town hall, two tele-town halls. We have four more town halls we're going to do, three more tele-town halls," Brandewie says. "There are going to be a lot of opportunities for Charlie to meet with the voters."

The King campaign counters that Summers' withdrawl from participation in candidate forums and debates is part of "a pattern of refusing to address issues important to Mainers." But it may be part of a larger campaign strategy. Colby College Political Science Professor Anthony Corrado says despite the fact that polls show King's lead in the race has narrowed and that Summers has core Republican support behind him, Summers still has a problem.

"The problem that Charlie Summers now faces is that he still has a very high unfavorable rating," Corrado says. "His unfavorable is still above his favorable and so the Democrats now are targeting Summers in hopes to maintain that unfavorability to make sure that he doesn't start to get up to the 40 percent margin where it becomes possible that he might pull off an upset."

Corrado says Summers may be looking for friendly venues where he's able to focus on issues in a way that helps him win the support of undecided or reluctant Republicans and Independents in the race.


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