In Maine Indian American Sara Gideon raises hope for unseating Sen. Susan Collins

Sara Gideon, center, seen here with her husband Benjamin Gideon, left, and their children. (saragideon.com photo)

In the crowded field of June 9 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Maine, Indian American Sara Gideon, the current State House Speaker, seems to be raising hope for winning the primary and ultimately claiming the seat in the general election from incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins.

The 47-year-old daughter of an Indian immigrant father and a second-generation Armenian mother wants to change what she believes are too many politicians in Washington focused more on the special interests than the interests of those they represent.

In late February, six labor unions announced their endorsement of Gideon in the Maine U.S. Senate race, highlighting her record of fighting for Maine’s working families and her commitment to supporting them in the Senate.

In January Planned Parenthood endorsed Gideon, saying Collins “turned her back” on women and citing her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as other judicial nominees who oppose abortion.

A Colby College survey conducted Feb. 10-13, the first public poll of the 2020 U.S. Senate race, showed Collins and her leading Democratic challenger Gideon with virtually identical support nine months before the election day.

In that poll Gideon had a commanding lead over her challengers in the Democratic primary, with 60 percent of Democrats or independents who plan to register as Democrats indicating they support the current Maine House speaker from Freeport.

Besides Gideon, other democrats in the fray are Michael Bunker, Bre Kidman, Ross LaJeunesse and Betsy Sweet.

“One of the most surprising findings is how poorly Senator Collins is doing with women,” Dan Shea, Colby College professor of government and the lead researcher on the poll, was quoted as saying in Sun Journal.

“She had a 42 percent approval rating overall but that drops to 36 percent for women. Further yet, it drops to 25 percent for women under 50. My best guess is this is residual impact on her vote for (U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett) Kavanaugh.”

On the face of it, the battle for Gideon may be an uphill one, despite the fact that Collins has disappointed those on the left since Trump took office by voting for the Republican tax bill, and by voting to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Maine’s politics have a decidedly anti-Establishment bent. As Gideon pointed out in her campaign ad that Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years and voters might be ready for a fresh, and more progressive, approach.

“In Maine, Senator Collins’ race is very important for Democrats. Her vote for Kavanaugh confirmation made them really angry, and Maine obviously is one of the key races for them, if the Democrats have to take back the senate. Naturally, the Democrats have targeted the seat in a big way and there is a lot of money and energy that are going to come in. This will be one of the prime races that needs to be watched,” Sanjay Puri, chairman and founder of U.S.-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a bipartisan, political organization representing the interests of more than 3.2 million Indian Americans, told this correspondent.

“To win the Senate, the Democrats need to win three important seats and this one is the potential pick-up along with Colorado and Arizona where they won the last cycle and Colorado is going to be a close race. Democrats have a good chance of taking the Senate if they win in these three key Senate races,” Puri said.

“Sarah has obviously raised a lot of money and the Democrats are putting money and energy but the challenge she has right now is that she doesn't as yet have the name identification that Colin has,” Puri said in a response to a question.

Gideon raised $3.5 million in the last three months of 2019 and spent nearly that much over the same period in her U.S. Senate bid, according to a Jan. 29 campaign news release.

In June last year. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed Gideon, saying she has proven that she will listen to and fight for all Mainers by bringing people together to lift up hardworking families and refusing to let partisanship and politics stand in the way of progress.

“In the Senate, Sara will build on her impressive record to bring down health care costs, combat the opioid epidemic, and boost economic opportunities — and she’ll always answer to her constituents. Mainers can trust Sara to fight for them, and we look forward to supporting her campaign,” DSCC said in a statement.

Puri said the USINPAC is keeping a close eye on the Maine race. “She (Gideon) has a good background and she's getting a lot of support from the people and her polls are good showing her neck to neck with Collins. I think she really has good opportunity, but it is too early at this stage to say anything about the outcome.”

Gideon supports Medicaid expansion and expanded health care for women and has vowed to continue the fight to protect and expand reproductive rights.

“Reproductive health care is under assault by the Trump Administration and far-right judges, and Senator Collins has sided with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump on nearly every judicial nominee,” her campaign said March 4 in a press statement.

“From birth control to cancer screenings to abortion, Mainers and Americans rely on organizations like Planned Parenthood for essential health care — and as Maine’s Senator, I will always defend their reproductive rights.”

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