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Senate candidate grows grassroots at on-campus town hall

October 25, 2019

The odds are not in Betsy Sweet’s favor—but, as she told on-campus town hall attendees on Sunday, that’s a critical part of her bid for the Maine Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

“I’m all about structural change; I’m about thinking outside the box,” she said. “When people say we can’t do something, I say, ‘you wanna bet?’”

Sweet, a former gubernatorial candidate and state lobbyist, addressed a modest crowd of students and Brunswick residents on the second floor of Moulton Union. If Sweet wins the June primary, she’ll go on to face Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who has been widely criticized following her tie-breaking 2018 vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Sweet’s afternoon remarks emphasized the corrosive role of money in politics and highlighted her plans to change the nature of federal elections by implementing 12-week election cycles and passing a law or constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

Sweet walks the walk in this regard; her campaign is ‘grassroots’ in the purest sense of the term. On Sunday she used the phrase “power … to the people” without a touch of irony, and has pledged to refuse money from corporations and Super PACs. In the middle of the town hall, her campaign manager implored the audience to spread the word about Sweet’s campaign by downloading a ‘digital canvassing’ app.

Sweet wants voters to remember all this; it’s a critical part of what distinguishes her from the race’s current front-runner, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. Gideon’s campaign is supported by the core of the Democratic Party machine—she’s been endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and her campaign has attracted widespread attention from national media.

Sweet, on the other hand, spent much of Sunday’s event touting her left-wing bonafides, like support for Medicare for All. She supports a Green New Deal, and her climate policy proposals range from the wacky—pods off the coast to harness the kinetic energy of the ocean—to the radical—public ownership of the electrical grid.

Through her out-of-the-box policy proposals Sweet weaves a rhetoric of gritty optimism and hopeful determination. On Sunday, her message came through crystal clear: better things are, indeed, possible.

“We could do it—we could!” she said. “We could fix this, [but] we don’t have the dedication, we don’t have the spine. Doing what’s good for the environment is good for the economy.”

Sunday’s event was organized by the Bowdoin Democrats. The club plans to host a similar event with Gideon in November.


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