Maine U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon’s political career began with a voicemail. Gideon told Refinery29 that when she found the message urging her husband to run for city council, she thought: Well, Ben is definitely not running for the town council, but actually, I think that’s a job for me and a place I can make a difference in my community. Gideon not only won her campaign, but went on to win a seat in the Maine State House of Representatives in 2012 and was appointed Speaker of the House in 2016.
In the Maine State House, Gideon’s top legislative priorities include healthcare, ending the opioid epidemic, climate change, and income inequality. Last June, the Maine House passed Gideon’s LIFT legislation to help families escape generational poverty. “We were able to bring Republicans and Democrats together to create a pathway out of poverty, and include education and job training,” she said of the bill. Gideon is also particularly proud of the steps the legislature took to help Mainers in the event the Affordable Care Act were overturned, which included protecting people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until they turned 26.
Gideon was partly inspired to run for U.S. Senate when she saw incumbent Sen. Susan Collins vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “I was shocked by her speech to the nation and I was, and forever will be, in disbelief about her assertion that all sexual assault survivors should be believed, but that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was simply mistaken,” she said. Collins’ Kavanaugh vote is just one in a string of controversial votes that have all but destroyed the moderate-maverick reputation with which she entered the Senate in 1997. “It really feels like she is different from how she was when she first went to Washington, and that she now puts special interests and her party ahead of Mainers,” Gideon said. It seems that many Mainers agree. A January 2020 poll showed Collins’ approval rating dropped over 30 points since 2015, now making her the most unpopular Senator.
While Collins’ Kavanaugh vote further motivated Gideon to run against her, she insists that her decision to run hinged on much more. “It was the culmination of all the times, including this, that Sen. Collins has left Mainers behind,” Gideon said. Mainers who feel similarly spurned are adding momentum to Gideon’s campaign. She remains the clear frontrunner for the June 9 primary. However, the race against Collins looks to be tight: A February 2020 poll by Colby College shows Gideon beating Collins, but only by one percentage point.
Gideon makes it clear that, perhaps unlike her incumbent opponent, no degree of political power can weary her moral center. She elaborated, “On the town council, as a state representative, and now in my second term as Speaker of the House, I’ve seen again and again that if you’re willing to work with others, it’s still possible to get things done.”