AUGUSTA — Republican U.S. Senate nominee Charlie Summers has bowed out of two recent candidate forums in Augusta, and a city disability rights group said they’re hurt by his decision to skip their event.
Summers campaign manager Lance Dutson said the campaign’s decision to skip two forums — one held at Le Club Calumet on Thursday by the Disability Rights Center and another held by the Maine Municipal Association on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Augusta Civic Center — were because of scheduling conflicts, not issues with the groups holding the events.
Dutson said the campaign has received invitations to around 20 debates or forums between now and Election Day, and he only anticipates Summers making five or six more.
“We’re trying to look at which ones we can fit in, but honestly our focus is probably going to be on the forum of the televised debates,” he said.
Rick Langley, advocacy director at the Disability Rights Center, said a Summers staffer called him on Wednesday afternoon to tell him the campaign was skipping the event, citing Summers’ schedule as Maine’s secretary of state. Dutson confirmed that was the reason.
Langley said Summers booked the debate in August.
“We’re hurt. We’ve got 125 people with disabilities in the room who came to hear all candidates talk about our issues,” said Kim Moody, the center’s executive director. “There are a lot of Republicans in there that came because he was coming.”
Megan Sanborn, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said Summers was working a half day on Thursday, using vacation time in the morning. She said he reported to work at 1 p.m. and would be there until 5:30 p.m. His speaking slot at the disability rights forum was at 2:15 p.m.
Christopher Lockwood, the Maine Municipal Association’s executive director, said a Summers staffer called the association yesterday to cancel his appearance at the October forum. Lockwood said that debate was booked in July.
His main opponents, Democrat Cynthia Dill and independent Angus King, spoke at Thursday’s topical forum on issues having an impact on disabled people. They are scheduled to appear at the Maine Municipal Association forum, Lockwood said.
Interviewed after their appearances, neither King nor Dill wanted to comment much on Summers’ decision to drop the two debates.
“That’s his call. It certainly disappointed the people here. He’s got to make his own decisions,” King said. “There are another 10 or 12 (forums) scheduled. Two isn’t quite a pattern. We’ll see.”
Michael Shepherd — 621-5632