Five days before what is likely to be the most contentious national election in recent history and as more than 345,000 Mainers have already cast their ballots, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Sara Gideon visited Brunswick on Thursday to make a final pitch to Bowdoin students to get out the vote.
Dozens of students and community members congregated on the Brunswick Mall—decorated with campaign signs for the occasion—to hear Gideon speak. Given the persistent COVID-19 pandemic, masked attendees had their temperatures checked and names recorded for contact tracing before joining the crowd. In addition to standard campaign buttons and t-shirts, campaign staffers and volunteers handed out masks to those who neglected to bring their own.
“I wanted to come as a way to learn more about her platform,” said Holden Turner ’21, who is living off campus in Brunswick, before Gideon arrived. “Even though I’ve already voted, [and] I still feel like I’m confident in my vote, I also want to know if she does win, what’s going to happen.”
In her speech, Gideon stressed the importance of young voter turnout in this election.
“We are five days away from Election Day,” she said. “And I was talking to a few of you who reminded me that, as freshmen in college right now, you were freshmen in high school when the last presidential election happened. You were years away from voting yourself, and your formative years, growing up and looking at what leadership in this country was doing, have been really, really tough years … And yet, here you are, ready to be the change that we need.”
The Senate election, a race between Gideon and incumbent Republican Susan Collins, is identified by most major polls as a toss-up, and it may decide which party controls the Senate. Gideon’s campaign has raised over $63 million throughout the election, an estimated $40 million of which comes from Democrats outside of Maine.
“I think the biggest thing is if [Gideon] gets elected, it’s one more step closer to flipping the Senate,” said Noah Desmarais ’24. “And that, in turn, would allow more progressive ideas to be put forward.”
Collins has been serving in the Senate since 1997 and has been frequently criticized for her deciding vote to confirm Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, both points that the Gideon campaign has attempted to call attention to.
“Often on the campaign trail, I talked about [Collins’] tenure, and the time that she has been away in Washington, and how that seems to have changed her,” Gideon said to reporters following the event. “She has been there for 24 years, and I think she is no longer in touch with people in Maine the way she seems to be in touch with the people in Washington.”
Gideon briefly touched on a number of her own policy positions, especially expanding access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, combating the climate crisis and protecting reproductive rights. She also addressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her campaign.
“This crisis of a pandemic is our opportunity to look at what we can be and to ask ourselves how we come through a crisis, saying, what was, isn’t good enough,” Gideon said. “The inequities that existed between us, we have to solve and close. The climate change that we’ve been ignoring, we have to take on with the boldest action possible.”
Liliana Lines ’24 cited climate change as the primary issue she is concerned about in this election, and she said it was one of the biggest factors ensuring her support for Gideon, even though Gideon has not endorsed the Green New Deal.
“Making sustainable infrastructure, and also working to pass the Green New Deal, and imposing carbon taxes and things like that … I know that she would be more active than Susan [Collins] with climate stuff,” Lines said. “So [her not supporting the Green New Deal] doesn’t change my vote.”
Gideon acknowledged that the election in Maine is likely to be very close, and she encouraged the crowd not only to vote themselves, but also to canvas, phonebank and call friends to encourage others to vote as well.
“As we get down to these final days, and the final hours and the final votes that are counted, it could be a race that is decided by hundreds or thousands of votes,” Gideon said. “And every conversation that you have, every door that you are willing to knock, every person that you are willing to call, even every conversation that you could have with a friend, could be a vote that adds up to that difference.”