PORTLAND – The Maine Democratic Party on Thursday blasted Republican gubernatorial candidate Chandler Woodcock for skipping a forum sponsored by the NAACP’s Portland chapter, accusing him of avoiding audiences that may disagree with him.
Woodcock’s spokesman said it was a simple scheduling conflict, but Democratic Party chairman Ben Dudley said the snub represented a trend.
Woodcock also missed a forum sponsored by the Maine Women’s Policy Center and declined to meet with representatives of the Maine Education Association. Woodcock opposes abortion, and he voted against increasing starting pay for Maine teachers.
“Avoiding those with whom you disagree isn’t leadership. Leadership is about listening to all sides of an issue and working with all parties, even those with whom you may disagree, to achieve the common good,” Dudley said in a statement.
Chris Jackson, spokesman for Woodcock, said the criticism was unfair. Woodcock has attended six to 10 candidate forums, and plans to attend several more. “There’s just nothing that can back up that Chandler is avoiding any issues,” he said.
Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the NAACP’s Portland chapter, said she spoke directly with Woodcock’s scheduler about the event. She noted that Republican Peter Cianchette skipped the same forum four years ago.
The Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People includes several hundred members.
“I think it’s irresponsible of [Woodcock’s] campaign to allow us to think that he doesn’t care about the constituencies we represent,” Ross said Thursday. “He has not done anything to counter that impression.”
Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, Green Independent Pat LaMarche and independent Barbara Merrill all planned to attend the NAACP event Thursday evening in Portland at the Westbrook College campus of the University of New England.
Woodcock was attending an event Thursday evening in Mount Vernon in central Maine after campaigning earlier in the day in Bridgton and in York County, where he spoke to workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.
Jackson accused Dudley and the Democratic Party of a cheap shot, especially the remark about Woodcock’s leadership. “The difference in leadership is that we don’t attack candidates because of scheduling conflicts,” he said.
Jackson said Woodcock was unfairly singled out. Other candidates have missed forums, and there was no attention paid to those, he said.
Baldacci skipped forums sponsored by the University of Maine at Machias and by the Maine Municipal Association, and no one accused him of not caring about eastern Maine or of being afraid to stand up to municipalities, Jackson said.
Woodcock is willing to meet later with NAACP officials if they’re still interested in talking to him, Jackson added.