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— Gov. Rick Snyder plans to hold a series of town hall meetings across the state this fall, answering question from voters — and his Democratic opponent Mark Schauer is invited to join him.

Snyder's campaign on Wednesday announced plans to hold 10 open forums before the Nov. 4 general election, with the first three being in Kalamazoo on Sept. 29, in Sterling Heights on Oct. 2 and an Oct. 4 event in Detroit.

The governor's campaign said Schauer is welcome to jointly appear with the governor at the events and take questions from voters, but with no ground rules.

"Rick Snyder is a confident leader who has a vision for Michigan and Mark Schauer lacks the intelligence to keep up with him in a format like a town hall," Snyder campaign manager Kyle Robertson said Wednesday.

But the Schauer campaign said the townhalls are no substitute for televised debates.

"It's a shame that Rick Snyder is unwilling to debate Mark Schauer in televised debates that would allow the most voters to see the candidates side by side discussing important issues that affect them," Schauer spokeswoman Cathy Bacile Cunningham said Wednesday in a statement. "A carefully scripted town hall with a partisan Republican audience is not the same as a statewide televised debate. We've reached out multiple times to the governor's campaign to negotiate debates, with no response.

"Mark Schauer would be happy to do a televised town hall with Rick Snyder. But let's be clear, what the governor proposed today is a political stunt."

In 2010, Snyder made town hall meetings with voters a hallmark of his campaign, even venturing into vastly Democratic cities such as Detroit in search of votes.

This year, the Republican incumbent has shied away from debating Schauer in a televised and scripted setting.

"I don't know if they need to," Snyder said last week when asked whether voters need to see a debate this year.

A Detroit News-WDIV (Channel 4) poll conducted Sept. 3-5 found Snyder holding a narrow 2-point lead over Schauer, 44 percent to 42 percent. Schauer led among independents and likely voters in southeast Michigan.

The Snyder campaign's town hall invitation for Schauer may be "a strategic play" to force Schauer to participate or put to rest the campaign squabbling over debates, said Dave Dulio, politicial science department chairman at Oakland University.

"I think that's pretty standard decision-making by an incumbent who is confident," Dulio said of Snyder. "Why would he put himself in a spot where he can lose ground?"

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood

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