The frontrunner in Maine’s Democratic Senate primary is receiving backlash for avoiding debates with primary opponents. The Speaker of the Maine’s state house, Sara Gideon, declined to participate in the only televised debate ahead of Maine’s primary on July 14th. Gideon’s two competitors, Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman, participated in Monday’s debate without the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)-backed candidate.
Looking forward to having yet another debate with just @BetsySweetME and I on @newscentermaine this Monday. Catch it at 7PM!— bre??????kidman????for??Maine??(D) (@BeeKay4ME) June 5, 2020
I asked Sara Gideon why she wouldn’t debate us backstage at the Portland Caucus on 3/8. I guess this wasn’t one of the ones she’s looking forward to ???? pic.twitter.com/xAAGIWkL13
Excited to join my friend @BeeKay4ME for the #VoiceOfTheVoter forum on News Center Maine. Bre and I will be presenting our individual perspectives on such vital progressive issues as #MedicareForAll, a #GreenNewDeal, and others. Tune in tonight at 7 on NBC! https://t.co/ipi6iT8TXL— Betsy Sweet (@BetsySweetME) June 8, 2020
Gideon previously promised to participate in primary debates, though the DSCC’s pick to take on GOP incumbent Sen. Susan Collins clearly did not expect accountability in this primary contest.
“I’m looking forward to having a debate. We’ll do it,” Gideon said in March, when asked about debates.
Gideon’s avoidance of debates has not gone over well. Her primary opponents criticized the speaker as “beholden to Chuck Schumer” and accused the DSCC of “telling Mainers who to support in the primary.”
Non-DSCC endorsed primary candidates are not the only observers of Gideon’s absence in the race. A Change.com petition is circulating, demanding that Gideon participate in a debate ahead of the July 14th primary election:
“It is indefensible, unconscionable, and unfair to voters and candidates that no debates have yet been held with all candidates in Maine's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon continues to refuse to participate, despite repeated attempts to schedule debates by her fellow Democratic candidates and news outlets…Enough is enough. Step up, Speaker Gideon.”
If the DSCC's hand-picked candidate manages to still win the primary, with much scrutiny from Maine voters, Gideon will take on Sen. Susan Collins in November, in what will be a battleground Senate contest.