by David Riley
All five remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown have agreed to participate in a candidates' forum in early December.
The Martin Institute at Stonehill College in Easton will host the event on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wickedlocal.com and its media partner, WCVB Channel 5, are co-sponsors of the forum.
The public is invited to attend.
The candidates are state Rep. Tom Conroy, D-Wayland; Marisa DeFranco, a Middleton resident with a Salem immigration law practice; Dover resident Jim King, president and cofounder of Boston law firm Murphy and King; Newton software engineer Herb Robinson; and Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate.
Chazy Dowaliby, editor of The Patriot Ledger of Quincy and The Enterprise of Brockton, will moderate the forum.
Three journalists will ask the candidates questions: Phillip Martin of WGBH Radio, Janet Wu of WCVB Channel 5 and a reporter for GateHouse News Service.
Since Warren entered the race in September, the candidate pool has shrunk. Newton Mayor Setti Warren, City Year cofounder Alan Khazei and Somerville activist Bob Massie all dropped out of the running.
Khazei's campaign described the difficulty drawing public attention and fundraising after Elizabeth Warren joined the contest.
The early focus on Warren is unusual, said Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Joseph Martin Institute for Law and Society at Stonehill.
"Particularly with Democrats in this state, the primaries are raucous," he said. "This is more like what Republicans do, which is they have a need to coalesce behind someone early."
However, the remaining candidates have said the race is far from finished, noting the primary election is 10 months away in September 2012. In political terms, that can be a long time.
"I believe, and many others do, too, that the Democratic Party and the people of Massachusetts will benefit from a competitive primary," Conroy said in a statement released after Khazei dropped out.
The winner will go on to challenge Brown in the November 2012 election. Democrats hope to retake the seat once held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.
Brown is one of probably two Republican senators in the nation who are vulnerable to a challenge, said Maurice Cunningham, a UMass-Boston political science professor, in a recent interview.
"Control of the Senate is up for grabs in 2012," Cunningham said.
The forum will not be a traditional debate, but a directed conversation among the candidates to allow a robust exchange of views. Responses will not be timed.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.