Indian-American Sara Gideon announces bid to unseat longtime Maine Senator Susan Collins

Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, is challenging longtime Republican Sen. Susan Collins. The Huffington Post reported that Gideon had “signaled a potential bid in October after Collins, the state’s GOP senator, voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.”

Gideon, 47, the daughter of an Indian father and an Armenian mother, is serving her second term as Speaker of the House and fourth term in the Maine House of Representatives, representing the towns of Freeport and Pownal.

″Whether it’s been on the town council, as a state representative or as Maine’s speaker of the House, I’ve learned that if you listen and if you are willing to work with others, it’s still possible to get things done,” the Indian-American said in a video announcing her decision to run against Collins on June 24.

News reports say that defeating Collins is key to Democratic hopes of winning back control of the Senate in 2020 and speculate that this will be one of the most high-profile Senate race of 2020. 

“Susan Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years and at one point maybe she was different than some of the other folks in Washington,” the Gideon said in her campaign video. “But she doesn’t seem that way anymore.”

Gideon, a Rhode Island native, is the third candidate to have formally announced plans to run for Senate against Susan Collins. Betsy Sweet, a former candidate for governor of Maine, announced in June that she was running for the Senate. And Bre Kidman, a lawyer and the first openly non-binary U.S. Senate candidate in the country, announced her candidacy back in April.

Susan Rice, the former National Security adviser and one-time ambassador to the United Nations, who had earlier hinted that she might consider running to replace Susan Collins, has however decided against it, news reports said.

Derek Levasseur, a conservative blogger, has announced he will run against Collins in the Republican primary.

In an interview with the Press Herald on June 24, Gideon said she didn’t believe Collins was still acting in the best interest of Maine people. She said Collins had become “a creature of Washington, D.C.,” serving mostly the interests of the Republican Party.

“When I think about Sen. Collins, I think she might have been different from the other people in Washington when she was first elected, but I have to ask is that still the case,” Gideon said. She told the Press Herald that as a U.S. senator she would put “Maine and its people first.”

A June 25 Huffington Post report says that a day after announcing her candidacy, Gideon received three key endorsements. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and NARAL Pro-Choice America announced their support, along with EMILY’s List, a political action committee that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

According to her website, Gideon had sponsored legislation in Maine, which was signed into law this year, to expand abortion access by permitting health care professionals who are not physicians to perform the procedure. She was also behind an effort to expand benefits to families in poverty.

On her website Gideon says her number one priority is building an economy that works for everyone. She believes that “Maine people are our best resource, that Maine students deserve our investment and that fostering innovation and entrepreneurship will lead to successful businesses statewide.”

The New York Times reported that Gideon said she first got the idea to run for public office in 2009 when someone left a message on her family’s answering machine asking her husband to consider running for town council. When she pushed the button and heard the message, she said, “I thought to myself, actually I think that’s a job that I can do.”

Gideon graduated from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she also worked as an intern for U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island. She spent most of her career as an advertising account executive for a nationally renowned newspaper, where she was awarded the president’s award for excellence in sales.

She is a past member of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, where she worked to lower energy costs, encourage increased energy efficiency and promote clean and renewable energy to capitalize on Maine’s natural resources and build a clean-energy economy. She also served as assistant majority leader for House Democrats in the 127th Legislature.

Although there isn’t much information on Gideon’s father, news reports say he immigrated from India and worked as a pediatrician in Rhode Island, where Gideon, the youngest of four children, grew up. After meeting her husband Ben Gideon, a personal injury trial lawyer with the firm of Berman & Simons, she moved with him to Maine. The couple now lives in Freeport with their three children, Julian, Alek and Josie.

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