Six candidates vying to be Baltimore's next mayor will speak at a forum at one of the city's largest churches Tuesday night-- but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will not be participating, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Organizers of the forum at the Empowerment Temple said that Rawlings-Blake's campaign had told them Sunday that she would be participating, but campaign spokeswoman Keiana Page said another engagement prevented Rawlings-Blake from attending.
Candidates State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former city planning director Otis Rolley, former city councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, clerk of courts Frank M. Conaway Sr., nurse Wilton Wilson and Vicki Harding-- the lone Republican on the panel-- are expected to attend, a church spokeswoman said.
Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor and Republican Party chair, is slated to moderate the event along with radio host Marc Steiner.
Nicole Kirby, a church spokeswoman who is organizing the forum, said she was surprised to hear that Rawlings-Blake would not be joining the other candidates.
The campaign "called Sunday to say she would be in attendance," said Kirby. "The mayor was the last one to confirm."
Update: Page forwarded an email that Rawlings-Blake's campaign manager had sent Kirby last week, saying that the mayor would not be able to attend.
More than 2,000 people are expected to view the forum, she said. More than 8,000 people are members of the Northwest Baltimore mega-church, she said.
The church has promoted the event -- and Rawlings-Blake's attendance -- in radio ads and emails, she said.
But Page, the campaign spokeswoman, said that Rawlings-Blake would not be able to come due to her "full schedule."
"The mayor is the incumbent. She has a very busy schedule," she said. "She manages the city. She doesn't have the luxury the other candidates have" to attend such events.
Rawlings-Blake announced last month that she would join in four candidate debates, including a forum this Thursday about disabilities.
Page said that Rawlings-Blake would also be unable to join in a debate next week hosted by the Safe and Sound Campaign, which advocates for children and teens.