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WATCH: Democrats Vying For U.S. Senate Nomination Face Off In Maine Public Debate

Campaign website photos
Sara Gideon, Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, the presumed frontrunner in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, used Monday’s Maine Public debate to tout her policy goals if she’s able to knock off incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in November.

Gideon mostly sidestepped critiques from Democratic rivals Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman, including assertions that her $23 million campaign war chest runs counter to her vow to get big money out of politics.

Instead, Gideon focused on issues like prescription drug prices that she hopes will lift her to victory in November.

For starters, she says Medicare should negotiate drug prices.

“No. 2, we need to cap out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors, and No. 3, we need to end pay for delay schemes, which keep generic drugs from coming to market and allowing all of us to have lower costs,” she says.

Sweet and Kidman argued that Medicare for All would lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Sweet says Democratic primary voters should not be deterred by the ongoing pandemic and sputtering economy when they go to the polls July 14. She attempted to pair her populist progressive policy agenda with a campaign that has been significantly outspent and overshadowed by Gideon.

“There is more at stake in this election than we are ever going to learn from a bunch of ads on TV. This could be our Social Security moment, the time when we can actually turn a crisis into an opportunity. The question is, are we ready to step up?” Sweet said.

A longtime lobbyist at the Maine State House, Sweet finished third in the crowded 2018 gubernatorial primary.

She has raised just over half a million dollars compared to Gideon’s $23 million, but she has won endorsements from prominent progressive groups.

Saco lawyer Bre Kidman is the third Democrat on the July ballot, and says income inequality is at the root of many of the country’s societal problems, including the divisiveness in national politics.

Kidman, an attorney from Saco, says the issue is central to a campaign designed to defeat Collins.

“People who are experiencing the extreme wealth injustice in this country are frustrated and are fed up with it. And unfortunately millions and millions of dollars go into the idea that we should fight each other about it instead of the people who keep perpetuating that system,” Kidman says.

Kidman has largely forsaken traditional fundraising methods during the campaign. Sweet and Gideon are running more conventional campaigns, but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hand-picked Gideon last year, a move that has given her a big edge in fundraising and organization.

Democratic primary voters will decide July 14 which of the three candidates will take on Collins this fall.

For more coverage of the 2020 election, visit mainepublic.org/yourvote.