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ANCHORAGE - Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has drawn criticism for not appearing a candidate forum in Wasilla after also missing a debate last month in Fairbanks.
Republican candidates Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker say Parnell's decision to take a pass at Thursday's GOP primary forum shows that he is dodging debates.
"We're missing the one guy we all wish was here so we could have a debate," Samuels told the Anchorage Daily News.
But the Parnell campaign calls that "silly" and points out that he is scheduled to appear at several other debates. The governor was not scheduled to attend the recent Fairbanks or Wasilla events.
"Between Bill Walker and myself, we disagree on a lot of things, we agree on a lot of things, but he and I show up every single time we are invited to show up," Samuels said.
Samuels actually doesn't show up every time he is asked, according to organizers of the Wasilla forum.
On Thursday, they chose Samuels to be invited back for a June 17 follow-up debate but were surprised to discover it conflicts with a fundraiser he'd scheduled at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage. Organizer Diana Straub said she had asked all candidates to commit to keep both nights free.
The Samuels campaign said it was first asked to participate in Thursday's forum in Wasilla on May 25 and there was no mention at the time of a subsequent event.
The campaign said it set up the fundraiser and was later advised there would be a follow-up debate in which Samuels might be asked to participate. The campaign said it couldn't cancel a hosted fundraiser planned for weeks on that basis.
Parnell released his debate schedule in May. He won't be participating in any more debates until August 12, less than two weeks before the August 24 primary election.
He's been at four events and missed at least four others.