Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon easily won the state Democratic Party's nomination for Senate Tuesday, setting up a contest with incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins in a race that is expected to garner nationwide attention as which party controls the Senate after November's general election is increasingly in question.
"The needs of Mainers are not being met right now and people desperately feel they need to be represented in a different way," Gideon told the Portland Press Herald in an interview after her victory Tuesday night.
Bye bye @SenatorCollins. After today's primary, Mainers are turning 100% of their attention towards you.
— Ady Barkan (@AdyBarkan) July 14, 2020
Gideon received 69% of the vote Tuesday, beating out opponents Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman. In remarks delivered via Facebook Live to supporters, the speaker looked to the general election fight and referred to Collins as out of touch with Mainers and a tool of the GOP establishment in Washington.
"Senator Collins has changed, and Mainers deserve better," said Gideon. "Mainers deserve a senator who will bring people together to overcome the challenges we face."
Marie Follayttar, director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, told Common Dreams that Collins' record in the Senate has led to poor outcomes for the people of Maine, especially during the pandemic, charging that the senator is part of the same destructive GOP cabal led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
"Senate Republicans under McConnell's control and aided by Susan Collins chose to pack our courts with extreme anti-choice judges rather than bring the HEROES Act to a vote and address the economic and healthcare needs of the people they represent during a pandemic," said Follayttar. "Eviction day looms alongside the end of a $600 pandemic unemployment assistance and Mainers are at risk for losing their housing, their jobs and their health due to the incompetent management of a pandemic."
Follayttar also ripped the Collins campaign and allied dark-money groups for their onslaught of negative ads against Gideon.
"Collins has launched her dirtiest campaign ever by engaging in gutter attacks rather than offering a vision and demonstrating that she has led on issues Mainers care about," Follayttar said.
In the wake of Gideon's primary victory, LGBTQ group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced it was backing the Democratic speaker over Collins, the first time the organization has not endorsed Collins during the incumbent's senatorial career.
As the Washington Post reported:
Two other influential liberal groups, Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters, had already endorsed Gideon. But the HRC held back, in part, because Gideon's more liberal primary opponents identified as bisexual and non-binary. The pro-LGBTQ Victory Fund had endorsed another Gideon opponent; in March, that candidate ended his bid and supported the front-runner.
The race is sure to attract national attention as Collins is seen as a weak incumbent who would lose her seat and possibly shift the balance of power in the Senate.
Follayttar put the race in that broader context, telling Common Dreams that Collins and Trump "are beholden to their corporate donors, their power, and in turn, are responsible for the erosion of the group project that is our democracy."
"This Senate race is a battle to keep our republic and democracy from a racist autocrat emboldened by a senate acquittal for abuse of power against our country seeks to break it," she continued. "Mainers need to know that if we are to block another extreme conservative judge who will strip us of our civil rights that we need to elect Sara Gideon and reclaim the Senate majority."
"We will fight every day to take back our senate seat and ensure Susan Collins never pretends to represent us again," said Follayttar.