Students and community members packed into the Pickering Room on February 1 for coffee, cookies and a chance to ask questions of Democratic Senate candidate and Speaker of the Maine State House Sara Gideon.
Of all the candidates running in the Democratic primary, Gideon is probably the most connected to Bowdoin: she lives in Freeport and is the aunt of two current Bowdoin students. Gideon’s nephew, Owen Gideon-Murphy ’21, opened the event and introduced his aunt to the group with an anecdote about sitting down to eat Christmas dinner as a family.
“I realized my aunt hadn’t sat down, and she was still up, walking around and making sure that everything was great for everybody else,” Gideon-Murphy said. “To me, she’s always been someone who’s always looking out for everyone else, someone making sure that everything is right for everyone else. She’s inherently selfless.”
Before taking questions from the audience, Gideon described some of the key policy tenets of her campaign: fighting climate change, creating a public health insurance option and defending women’s access to abortion services. The core of Gideon’s campaign, however, is a proposition she hopes will galvanize liberal Mainers throughout the state: defeating incumbent Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).
“All the time, people will say to me, what do you think happened to Senator Collins?” Gideon said. “There’s a sense that she has changed, and that somebody who holds herself as a moderate and an independent—at the very time that we have needed moderation and independence most—has failed to stand up and demonstrate that.”
To differentiate herself from Collins, Gideon’s campaign emphasizes youth. Gideon repeatedly brought up her own young children and emphasized Collins’ 23-year incumbency. Her campaign staff is remarkably young and Bowdoin-affiliated. Emily Ruby ’19 is a political assistant on the campaign and organized the event; four members of the Class of 2020 who intern with the campaign greeted attendees at the door.
“We always talk about young people as: ‘this is your future, you’re going to inherit this,’ but no. In fact … this is yours right now,” Gideon said in an interview with the Orient after the event. “And … to know that [young people] will continue to push me in the directions that I need to go is the most inspiring thing that I can become on this campaign trail.”
Diego Lasarte contributed to this report.