In the crowded field of June 9 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Maine, Indian American Sara Gideon, the current State House Speaker, seems to be raising hope for winning the primary and ultimately claiming the US Senate seat in the general election from incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins.
The 47-year-old daughter of an Indian immigrant father and a second-generation Armenian mother wants to change what she believes are too many politicians in Washington focused more on the special interests than the interests of those they represent.
Senator Susan Collins’ hard-won reputation as an independent-minded Republican moderate devoted to Maine — an image that enabled her to continue on as New England’s last surviving GOP senator — is being put to the test this year in the most difficult reelection race of her career. And with control of the Senate at stake, it’s become one of the highest-profile Senate races in the country, already prompting millions of dollars in spending by outside political groups.
Susan Collins — one of the few remaining senators on either side of the aisle willing to buck their party on key votes — objects to the idea that she has changed. Six years ago, Collins won more than two-thirds of the vote. But a Colby College poll of Maine voters last month found a statistical dead heat between Collins and Gideon, with 56% of women reporting an unfavorable opinion of Collins, likely a result of her support for Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seat.
“One of the most surprising findings is how poorly Senator Collins is doing with women,” Dan Shea, Colby College professor of government and the lead researcher on the poll, was quoted as saying in Sun Journal.
“She had a 42 percent approval rating overall but that drops to 36 percent for women. Further yet, it drops to 25 percent for women under 50. My best guess is this is residual impact on her vote for (U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett) Kavanaugh.”
Sara says, she is running for U.S. Senate because she believes too many politicians in Washington are focused more on the special interests than the interests of the people they’re supposed to serve. Besides Gideon, other democrats in the fray are Michael Bunker, Bre Kidman, Ross LaJeunesse and Betsy Sweet.
Sara is a leading voice in the legislature to draw attention to and deliver resources to combat Maine’s opioid epidemic. Sara’s work has been credited with giving law enforcement and families the tools they need to help save lives. And when former Governor LePage vetoed Sara’s opioid legislation and mocked those suffering from the crisis, Sara did not back down. Instead, she brought Democrats and Republicans together and defeated the veto from the Governor.
Sara has prioritized listening to Mainers and then working with others to get things done. And under Governors of both parties, Sara has shown an ability to deliver results while standing up for Democratic Whether as a member of her local town council, as a State Representative and now Speaker of the House, Sara has focused on trying to use her office to improve the lives of Maine
Democrats are building a case that Collins — despite her support for abortion rights and vote to uphold Obamacare — is following her party’s rightward shift. In particular, they point to her refusal to stand up to President Trump and her siding with the party on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Many legal experts expect Kavanaugh to support efforts to undermine Roe vs. Wade, though he’s never directly ruled on the issue and Collins has said she is confident he won’t.
“In Maine, Senator Collins’ race is very important for Democrats. Her vote for Kavanaugh confirmation made them really angry, and Maine obviously is one of the key races for them, if the Democrats have to take back the senate. Naturally, the Democrats have targeted the seat in a big way and there is a lot of money and energy that are going to come in. This will be one of the prime races that needs to be watched,” Sanjay Puri, chairman and founder of U.S.-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a bipartisan, political organization representing the interests of more than 3.2 million Indian Americans, told this correspondent.
“To win the Senate, the Democrats need to win three important seats and this one is the potential pick-up along with Colorado and Arizona where they won the last cycle and Colorado is going to be a close race. Democrats have a good chance of taking the Senate if they win in these three key Senate races,” Puri said.
In light of those votes, Gideon suggested that Collins hasn’t kept up with a changing political environment. “Wherever we have been in the state, people will come up to us and say, what do you think happened to Susan Collins?” Sara Gideon, the Democratic front-runner in the Senate race, told a crowd in Maine. “We really hear that question posed in that way all of the time. It feels like she is making decisions that are in somebody else’s interest, not in ours.”
Collins predicts she will prevail after a tough race — citing Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) interest in unseating her as a way to regain Democratic control of the chamber.
In late February, six labor unions announced their endorsement of Gideon in the Maine U.S. Senate race, highlighting her record of fighting for Maine’s working families and her commitment to supporting them in the Senate.
In January Planned Parenthood endorsed Gideon, saying Collins “turned her back” on women and citing her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as other judicial nominees who oppose abortion.
On the face of it, the battle for Gideon may be an uphill one, despite the fact that Collins has disappointed those on the left since Trump took office by voting for the Republican tax bill, and by voting to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Maine’s politics have a decidedly anti-Establishment bent. As Gideon pointed out in her campaign ad that Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years and voters might be ready for a fresh, and more progressive, approach.
In June last year. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed Gideon, saying she has proven that she will listen to and fight for all Mainers by bringing people together to lift up hardworking families and refusing to let partisanship and politics stand in the way of progress.
“In the Senate, Sara will build on her impressive record to bring down health care costs, combat the opioid epidemic, and boost economic opportunities — and she’ll always answer to her constituents. Mainers can trust Sara to fight for them, and we look forward to supporting her campaign,” DSCC said in a statement.
Puri said the USINPAC is keeping a close eye on the Maine race. “She (Gideon) has a good background and she’s getting a lot of support from the people and her polls are good showing her neck to neck with Collins. I think she really has good opportunity, but it is too early at this stage to say anything about the outcome.”
Gideon supports Medicaid expansion and expanded health care for women and has vowed to continue the fight to protect and expand reproductive rights. “Reproductive health care is under assault by the Trump Administration and far-right judges, and Senator Collins has sided with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump on nearly every judicial nominee,” her campaign said March 4 in a press statement. “From birth control to cancer screenings to abortion, Mainers and Americans rely on organizations like Planned Parenthood for essential health care — and as Maine’s Senator, I will always defend their reproductive rights.”