The Maine Democratic Party’s three U.S. Senate candidates squared off Monday night in a televised debate on Maine Public.

Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives; Betsy Sweet, a lobbyist and political activist from Hallowell; and criminal defense attorney Bre Kidman of Saco participated. The three will face off July 14 to determine who will run against incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins in November. Gideon skipped a June 9 debate sponsored by News Center Maine.

Sara Gideon, Bre Kidman, Betsy Sweet

For the most part, the candidates avoided political attacks, using the platform to promote their positions and why they would be more effective than Collins for Maine residents. Jennifer Rooks moderated Monday’s hour-long debate on Zoom.

Sweet, a business owner who describes herself as a lifelong human rights activist, said she supports a Medicare for all health care system, and said it would relieve Mainers from having to haggle over drug prices with insurance companies and lower prescription drug prices.

“Access to health care is a human right,” said Sweet, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018.

The candidates were asked what should be done about systemic racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis this year. A white officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for several minutes before he died.

Gideon said she supports prohibiting racial profiling, establishing a national registry on police misconduct, and a ban on choke holds by police.

“We can do better,” said Gideon, who was elected to the Legislature in 2012 after serving on Freeport’s Town Council.

Kidman was asked about a lack of political experience. Kidman’s campaign website says Kidman has never run for office, hates wearing blazers and drives a 10-year-old subcompact car with a missing hubcap.

“I think it would be a benefit rather than a hindrance,” Kidman said, when asked about a lack of political experience. “I have an opportunity if elected to look at how we can do things differently.”

Gideon said climate change is having a “catastrophic impact” on Maine and its environment. More needs to be done at the federal level, she said. Gideon said she would push to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement – a worldwide accord on fighting climate change that the Trump administration has withdrawn from – and would work to increase renewable energy systems in Maine and across the country.

Sweet criticized Collins’ support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying the appointment of judicial nominees has become a political football and a threat to democracy. Sweet said she would support creation of a non-partisan judicial vetting system.

Kidman said they would try to make politics less divisive by fighting against inequalities in wealth and to make sure everyone has access to what they need.

“People who have nothing are angry and people who have little are angry,” Kidman said.

There will be at least one more debate before the July 14 primary. Collins does not face a primary challenge. Voters can cast ballots for more than one Democratic candidate in the ranked choice primary.

Gideon, who lives in Freeport, is the likely front-runner for the Democratic nomination. She has raised more money than her opponents and a new poll by left-leaning Public Policy Polling found 46 percent favored Gideon and 42 percent favored Collins, with 11 percent undecided. The poll has a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Gideon has also outraised Collins. Last week, Gideon’s campaign reported it raised $8 million between April and late June, more than double the fundraising haul made by Collins during the same period. The 2020 Senate race is already the most expensive campaign in state history, attracting national attention and money as Democrats try to regain a majority in the Senate.


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