AUGUSTA — Candidates — including the several involved in what are expected to be hotly contested races to restore the Augusta City Council back to full strength after a slew of resignations — will try to show why they’re worthy of residents’ votes at a candidates’ forum Wednesday.

The forum, organized and hosted by the nonpartisan Augusta First, a group with a stated mission of encouraging qualified individuals to run for elected positions, is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the lecture hall at Augusta City Center.

Candidates for the Augusta Board of Education and City Council will have a couple of minutes each to introduce themselves, then face questions, some of which they were provided in advance, some of which they were not.

Bruce Holmes, chairman of Augusta First’s candidates’ night committee, urged residents to come out and learn about the people who want to be their elected leaders.

“Public service within the city of Augusta is one of the most vital roles one can contribute to the community,” he said in a news release. “It is also vital for the community to have a chance to meet their candidates and hear their ideals, goals and aspirations.”

In the past, Augusta First’s candidate forums have been run by the group’s chairwoman Raegan LaRochelle. But LaRochelle is a candidate in this election, so she handed off those duties to Holmes this year, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest or an unfair advantage for her at the forum.

“Bruce Holmes is in charge; he collected the questions and distributed them to candidates, and will be overseeing the forum,” LaRochelle said Monday. “We’ve been transparent about that.”

There are two contested races for City Council this year.

Four candidates will fight for two at-large spots on the council, with the top two vote-getters taking the three-year terms. Those candidates are: LaRochelle, Heather Pouliot, incumbent Mark O’Brien and Martha “Muffy” Witham.

One of the at-large spots has been vacant since former Councilor Corey Wilson resigned in July, because he moved out of Augusta. His term was set to expire at the end of the year, meaning it would have been up for election in November even if he had not resigned. The other at-large term up for election is currently O’Brien’s.

The other contested spot in November is a Ward 3 seat on the council left vacant in June when former Councilor Harold Elliott resigned because he, also, has moved out of Augusta. Elliott’s position was also up for election in November.

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Three candidates returned nomination papers seeking that position by last week’s deadline: Michael Michaud, Lisa Newell and Stanley Koski.

Voters will also fill a vacancy on the council created when former Councilor Jennifer Day resigned from her at-large spot, which wasn’t due to expire until December 2020. Her seat will also be filled during the November election, but will be a special election to fill the remainder of the unexpired term. The winner of that seat will be sworn-in to fill the vacancy in November. The other candidates won’t take office until the start of the new year.

Former Councilor Darek Grant was the only candidate to return nomination papers to be on the November ballot to fill the remainder of Day’s term.

All races for the Augusta Board of Education are uncontested. Candidates for the school board, each of them incumbent members of the board, are Staci Fortunato (Ward 1), Jennifer Dumond (at-large) and Kati McCormick (Ward 4).

The candidates forum will be broadcast live by CTV-7, viewable on local cable on Channel 1301.

Holmes said all Augusta candidates for local office have been invited to participate.

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