Last month, Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon announced that she was running for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The Maine Senate seat is a top target for Democrats in 2020, and within a day of her announcement, Gideon had nabbed three key endorsements from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), EMILY’s List, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Although Gideon still faces a primary challenge, she is viewed by many as the nominee-in-waiting.
Despite her frontrunner status, those living outside Maine may not know much about Gideon, her background, and where she stands on key issues. Here are 3 things to know about the Maine Democrat who is hoping to unseat Senator Collins.
1.) Gideon’s Political Background
Gideon was first elected to the Maine State House of Representatives in 2012, and she has been comfortably reelected in each election since. After serving as a member of the House Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in her first term, Gideon’s standing among Maine Democrats quickly rose. In her second term in office, she was selected to serve as assistant majority leader, and in her third term, Democrats elected her to serve as the Speaker of the House, a role she still holds.
Shortly after Sen. Collins voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Gideon began floating her Senate ambitions. Speculation about her possible Senate run grew in December of last year when she wrote an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News blasting Collins for her vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In January, reports that she’d had ‘high-level’ discussions about the race with Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Catherine Cortez Masto began leaking.
Gideon officially entered the Senate race in June of 2019. In her announcement video, she highlighted her work in the state House to expand job training programs, protect ObamaCare, and control the price of prescription drugs. She also took aim at Collins for her tax cut vote, taking money from insurance companies, and her support for Brett Kavanaugh. In the week following the announcement, Gideon’s campaign said it raised more than $1 million.
2.) Gideon Supported Single-Payer
Although her state speaker website indicates that Gideon “believes that health care is a right, not a privilege,” and “that every Mainer deserves access to universal, affordable, quality care,” she has yet to take a firm position on “Medicare for All.” Betsy Sweet, Gideon’s progressive primary opponent, has come out in support of the proposal, so Gideon’s relative silence on the issue so far could indicate that she is trying to employ a more moderate strategy.
Gideon has been supportive of single-payer health care in the past, however. In 2013, Gideon cosponsored a bill that would have established a single-payer system in Maine by 2017. According to reports at the time, the bill would have replaced employer-sponsored coverage with a government-run universal health insurance program. The bill as it was introduced never received a vote, but Gideon voted for the amended version, which instead authorized a study of how a universal health care plan might be designed and implemented in Maine.
3.) Gideon’s Corporate PAC Pledge Hypocrisy
After jumping into the Senate race, Gideon pledged not to accept donations from corporate political action committees. She has also accused Collins of relying on PAC money to fund her campaigns. However, Gideon’s own state leadership PAC has received corporate PAC donations, and she has already used that money to boost her Senate campaign.
According to state records, “Gideon Leadership PAC” has accepted contributions from many large corporations, including Merck, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Eli Lilly, AT&T and American Express. She has also received contributions from energy companies, such as natural gas suppliers, pharmaceutical corporations, and telecom companies. According to Maine Examiner, Gideon’s PAC has collected nearly $300,000 in contributions, with more than half of that coming from “commercial sources.”
Gideon has also used her leadership PAC to bolster her image and attack Collins. According to Facebook’s ad library, which tracks political ads, Gideon ran an ad from December 19, 2018 through December 29, 2018 criticizing Senator Collins and promoting the op-ed she had penned for the Bangor Daily News. Gideon is now running ads on Facebook highlighting her “No Corporate PAC” pledge, a hypocritical move considering her state-level fundraising methods.