Democrat Sara Gideon of Freeport argues she is needed in the U.S. Senate to stand up to Republican leadership, who she criticized for poor choices of judges, for weakening health care, and for failing to respond to the pandemic.

Gideon, who is Maine’s Speaker of the House, is challenging longtime incumbent Republican Susan Collins for U.S. Senate.

Also running are two independent candidates: Lisa Savage, a Green Independent Party member from Solon, and Max Linn, a Bar Harbor businessman.

Democrats are hoping to take seats and control of the Senate from Republicans, who currently hold a six-seat advantage.

Gideon cites her record of service, saying she has been willing to sit down with people, especially those she most disagrees with, to get things done for Mainers in key areas.

The candidate argues that Republicans work to weaken efforts to provide health care to citizens.

She was critical of the current government’s pandemic response, noting that many months in, we still do not have the proper protective equipment and testing to deal with the problem.

She argues the pandemic is going to be with us for a long time to come both in terms of the health crisis and the economic fallout.

She said she has been disappointed in the lack of leadership from President Donald Trump.

The reality, according to Gideon, is that we have to look forward to what we can do, which includes making sure people have access to short-term aid needed to stay in their homes.

On the issue of the use of force by police against minorities and the wide-scale protests seen in response, she said it is important to recognize the legacy of bigotry throughout the history of the country. She said this has led to systemic racism, and it affects access to education, child care, health care, poverty rates and rates of incarceration for black citizens.

Gideon said there is a tremendous sense of urgency now as people speak out against the brutality and violence at the hands of law enforcement for people of color.

She said she would work to ban violent police practices including choke holds and racial profiling.

The speaker said we have done this here in Maine under her leadership in the Legislature.

She would also push for racial bias training and a national police misconduct registry.

When there is an incident, she wants the record to follow that police officer as they seek to move to another state or department.

On the issues of the economy, she spoke first about the need to assure those who are either bringing businesses to Maine, expanding or continuing them, that they will have the work force they need.

This means there is a need to create opportunities for training people for new positions.

She also strongly supports increasing the infrastructure for high-speed internet, arguing it should be made available throughout the state, including rural areas. She called for investment from the federal government in these improvements.

“Restoring public health is our number one priority,” Gideon said.

Ultimately, she said there is a need to think about how to take great challenges, including climate change, and use them as positive ways to build our economy, such as investing in renewable energy.

The candidate said we are experiencing the effects of climate change right now.

“Climate change is here.” She said that’s why in the State House she worked really hard to set aggressive goals on renewable energy generation and decreasing carbon emissions

Gideon argues those things should be done on federal level rather than having a patchwork of state policies.

In the face of potential drastic impacts on our health, fresh water and food, she says, “We’ve got to take on this problem.”

There are ways to do it that mitigate the pain of it, she argued, calling for a coordinated and smart way to transition to renewable energies and build new jobs for people who were in fossil fuels.

She supports a woman’s right to choose and said she has fought to protect that and make sure insurance covers abortions.

She pointed out the continuing Republican attempt to target abortion by appointing federal judges who oppose not only that right, but tolerance for the LGBTQ community and civil rights. She opposes this effort to change the judiciary.

Gideon said the debate over gun rights has come down to two extremes, which do not allow for smart gun regulations. She favors removing loopholes that prevent background checks and supports a red flag safety law.

However, she added that so many Mainers are responsible gun owners.

On the issue of education, she supports allowing for paid family leave and universal access to pre-K education programs to level the playing field across economic divides and for those in rural areas.

She supports increasing pay for teachers.

On the issue of student college debt, she supports cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges and regulations to make school-loan lenders more transparent.

She sees an opportunity to use incentives for schools that bring down tuition and provide debt-free education.

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