Despite VillageSoup’s efforts to provide readers with comprehensive coverage of all five people vying to be the next governor of Maine, one of those candidates does not have a profile in this election supplement after his campaign backed out of a scheduled publisher’s forum.

Waterville Mayor Paul LePage, the Republican party’s gubernatorial nominee, was scheduled to meet with VillageSoup in late September, but his campaign representative canceled the event less than 24 hours prior to the forum, stating there had not been enough information provided about the event nor enough time to adequately prepare for it.

Despite statements from campaign representatives that they would seek to reschedule events, and VillageSoup’s attempts to follow up on that commitment, as of Monday, Oct. 18, the campaign had not responded to VillageSoup about setting up another forum.

As evidenced from the four gubernatorial profiles in this supplement, VillageSoup met and spoke with all of the other candidates.

In early September, VillageSoup contacted the campaign offices of all five candidates seeking to be Maine’s next governor. VillageSoup explained by e-mail that it wanted to hold a publisher’s forum with each of the five candidates, “as a chance to discuss the issues facing the state today and which the next governor will be dealing with.”

The LePage campaign was one of the first to respond to the invitation, and after a couple of phone calls a date was set — Thursday, Sept. 30, at 10:30 a.m. in VillageSoup’s Augusta office.

On Tuesday, Sept. 28, the scheduler for the LePage campaign contacted VillageSoup and left a voice message questioning the format of the publisher’s forum. VillageSoup replied to the scheduler via e-mail, but due to VillageSoup’s use of an incorrect e-mail address, the message was not received.

VillageSoup ended up speaking with the scheduler the next day, Sept. 29. In discussing the format of the upcoming forum, the scheduler expressed surprise to learn that there would be six to eight people there from VillageSoup’s editorial staff. The scheduler said that constituted a more in depth discussion than the campaign had been expecting, and that the campaign would need more time to prepare the candidate for such a forum.

The scheduler again contacted VillageSoup, still on Sept. 29, and said that after consultation with other LePage campaign staff members, the campaign was canceling the forum scheduled for the next day, but said the campaign would work to reschedule another date. The scheduler also requested to have the higher level of detail that had been shared during the phone conversation regarding the format of the forum relayed via e-mail.

Here is the more detailed description of the format of the forum requested by the LePage campaign, and which the scheduler acknowledged receipt of:

“[O]ur vision for these forums is to have the candidate speak at the beginning, and then delve into questions on specific topics and issues that the next governor will be facing and which have come up during the campaign so far. There will be a common set of questions for each of the candidates in their individual forums with [VillageSoup], which … will allow voters to compare how the candidates stand on certain issues and allow them (the voters) to make an educated decision. Along with these common questions, there will be specific questions tailored to each of the candidates, based on policy positions they have come up with, statements they have made, etc.”

The scheduler had also asked if the questions for the forum would be shared with the candidate prior to the meeting. VillageSoup informed her that none of the candidates would be informed of what the questions were prior to the forum.

Staffers from some of the other gubernatorial campaigns also contacted VillageSoup prior to their respective forums, and were provided with the same type of information requested by the LePage campaign and reprinted in this article. None of those campaigns, however, expressed surprise when informed of either how the forum would run or how many people would be attending.

Multiple phone calls and e-mails from VillageSoup to the LePage campaign’s scheduler following the cancellation of the Sept. 30 forum — including a schedule of when and where we would be meeting with the other candidates, in an effort to make the scheduler’s job easier — were never returned.

When it was clear VillageSoup’s efforts to contact the scheduler were not getting anywhere, VillageSoup wrote to LePage campaign press secretary Dan Demeritt and inquired if he was aware of or knew anything about rescheduling the forum. VillageSoup has not heard back from Demeritt on that matter.

In early October, just days after the campaign pulled out of the forum with VillageSoup, the LePage campaign issued a press release stating that LePage would spend the remainder of the campaign participating in what was called the “People before Politics Tour.”

“I am spending the rest of this campaign in the downtowns of our great state, its local diners and meeting places,” LePage was quoted as saying in that Oct. 2 press release. “The voters and I are going to have a conversation about the future of Maine far removed from the noise and distractions of Augusta.

Also, the campaign’s backing out of the Sept. 30 forum came on the same day that numerous media outlets reported on LePage’s comments at a GOP forum in the town of Brooksville a few days earlier. The day before, on Sept. 29, Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported that LePage made a comment to MPBN’s Jennifer Rooks that he was “ready to punch” MPBN reporter A.J. Higgins, who was at an earlier Augusta news conference with LePage when the candidate abruptly left over questions about his wife’s residency status in Florida.

According to an Associated Press article dated Sept. 29, LePage was quoted making the following statement during the Sept. 26 forum in Brooksville: “As your governor, you’re going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page, saying ‘Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell.” According to the AP article, LePage’s remarks were greeted with applause.

Later, LePage told the AP that he regretted his choice of words, but not the fact that he would stand up to what he described as “free-spending, anti-business policies [of the Obama administration].”

As for the comments about Higgins, MPBN reported that LePage later said he had no intention of punching Higgins, and that he had since spoken with Higgins and made that clear.

In the primary elections in June, LePage emerged the winner from a field of seven contenders on the Republican side. LePage’s vote total — 49,126, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s website — was more than double that of the second-place finisher, Les Otten (who had 22,945 votes). None of the other five candidates in that election cracked the 20,000 vote mark.