September 12, 2010

OUR OPINION: Mitchell can’t afford to pass on more debates

We aren’t inclined to argue about standing on principle, particularly when it comes to politicians, but Libby Mitchell is testing our patience.

She says she will not appear at forums and debates that exclude some of the candidates for governor. Two of three of those running as independents, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott, are sometimes excluded.

Their exclusion is unfair, Mitchell contends, and therefore she will not participate in those events.

Our newspapers understand the rationale of not including all five candidates in each forum or debate. We are involved as sponsors of several of these and we believe that the candidates who are invited should be those who stand the best chance of being elected.

Polls at this point indicate the top three candidates are Democrat Mitchell, Republican Paul LePage and Independent Eliot Cutler.

LePage is also being selective about where and how he will appear. He has the advantage of being far ahead in the polls. He can sit out a few forums here and there.

The difference is that he is being cagey and picking his spots. Mitchell is on her high-horse and claiming to be motivated by “principle.”

We don’t buy it. We frankly don’t believe that Mitchell is avoiding debates because of her selfless concern for the long-shot candidates in the race. We suspect that she has latched onto this issue to save herself the misery of being the prime target for both LePage and Cutler when all three appear together.

If she’s going to endure that, she at least wants the lesser independents to be there taking some potshots at her opponents — particularly Cutler, who figures to steal Democratic votes from her.

If Mitchell really wants to be governor, she needs to start appearing at forums so that voters can hear her views and watch her mix it up with her major opponents. Ours is a participatory government, and she’s not participating. Rather, she’s acting like a monarch without the crown.

It’s in the give-and-take among candidates that voters get the best sense of who the candidates are and how they will respond to the tough choices facing Maine. By sitting on the sidelines, Libby Mitchell robs us all of that opportunity.

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