In Maine, Sara Gideon Could Help Flip the Senate

The state's renewed political activism could work in Gideon's favor.

augusta, me july 3 speaker of the house sara gideon talks the the press in her office at the maine state house during the third day of the state government shutdown rep gideon said that they were not planning on budging on the lodging tax staff photo by brianna soukupportland portland press herald via getty images
(Image credit: Portland Press Herald)

One of the most high-profile races of the November 2020 election: The Senate seat currently held by Republican incumbent Susan Collins. Collins is being challenged by Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, in a race that would have proven impossible to win just a few years ago.

Yet Collins' support of the current administration and the dissolution of her reputation as a moderate Republican have made it possible for candidates like Gideon to make an impact. Gideon was the favorite to receive the Democratic nomination and now faces one of the most talked-about election battles this year. If elected, Gideon is one of a few critical candidates who could help flip the Senate. Here's what to know about who is who she is, what she stands for, and why she's so critical to the upcoming election.

Where is Sara Gideon from?

Gideon was born in Rhode Island and moved to Freeport, ME, in 2004. Her father immigrated from India; her maternal grandparents fled the Armenian genocide. A graduate of George Washington University with a B.A. in international affairs, she's married to Benjamin Gideon, who is an attorney at a personal injury law firm. The two have three kids together (and a very cute dog, by the looks of it).

And the three kids took to Instagram to wish her a Happy Mother's Day:

Gideon has served on the Maine House of Representatives since 2013.

Gideon was elected Speaker in 2016, but she began working in local politics as early as 2004. She's pitched herself as a unifying force between Democrats and Republicans. One of her main issues is healthcare; she wants to increase the power of Medicare but also keep private insurance for those who want it (thereby improving access but not overhauling the industry).

She also favors taxing corporations and says she won't take any political action committee (PAC) money. She also supports improving education and training (Maine faces a workforce shortage), tackling climate change, and protecting reproductive rights, per her website. She hosted "Suppers with Sara" where she talks to Maine residents up until the pandemic started, and she still goes to have distanced meetings with constituents.

She's leading in the polls against Senator Susan Collins.

This Slate piece does a good job of explaining Maine's politics, but in short: Incumbent Senator Susan Collins (who is a Republican but has always leaned moderate) came out against Trump in 2016 but has since supported several administration-backed moves, including favoring the hiring of Brett Kavanaugh and opposing impeachment. In 2014 she easily won a fourth term, but she now trails Gideon in the polls by 11 points.

Maine hasn't always historically been a politically gung-ho state, but 2016 served as a wakeup call for many. Now, Collins is the only New England Republican in Congress left and won't say who she's voting for in this year's presidential election, even after some very pointed questioning.

Maine recently elected a Democratic governor and Gideon has fundraised double what Collins raised in the last quarter. The pandemic has made it challenging to campaign in person, especially since Collins works in D.C., which gives Gideon the advantage (she's spoken at length on social media about the constituents she's met with). The race is the most expensive in Maine's history and a lot of money has come from outside the state.

We'll keep this post updated.


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(Image credit: Design By Morgan McMullen)
Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.