- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Monday that he’s considering pulling out of debates that include Democrat Mike Michaud.

The Republican governor told WMTW-TV that he doesn’t think he’ll share the stage with Michaud “from here on out,” criticizing the Democrat for a not denouncing a TV ad from an outside group that accuses LePage of considering Social Security as welfare.

LePage’s political foes have attacked a press release from his office this summer that appeared to characterize Social Security, Medicare payments and other benefits as “welfare, pure and simple.” Republicans said that the comments were taken out of context.

The governor’s campaign said in a statement that he sees no problem with going ahead with the scheduled debates with independent candidate Eliot Cutler, but that the “false attack” is causing LePage “to question the value of debating Michael Michaud who clearly has no problem not being honest with the Maine people.”

Michaud said Monday that LePage is looking for a reason to dodge the six debates the three candidates have agreed to.

“The governor doesn’t want to defend his divisive, partisan record that has left Maine’s economy lagging behind the rest of the country in job creation and economic growth,” he said in a statement. “Gov. LePage is the incumbent. We’re in a close race. And he should keep his word and attend the debates he’s agreed to.”

Michaud’s campaign has said that that the Democrat will only appear at debates where LePage is present and won’t debate one-on-one with Cutler.

Cutler, who’s been pressing the other two candidates to agree to more debates, said in a statement that Maine people expect the candidates to “come together, defend our ideas and debates the issues facing our state.”

“It’s time for LePage and Michaud to stop playing games,” he said.

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Information from: WMTW-TV, https://www.wmtw.com

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