PORTLAND, Maine — Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Sara Gideon clashed Monday over the Supreme Court and the response to the pandemic during their second debate in the closely watched Senate race.
Gideon, the Maine House speaker, accused the four-term Collins of failing to use her seniority to show results for the people of Maine, especially when additional help is needed during the pandemic. Collins said the Paycheck Protection Program she authored saved hundreds of thousands of jobs while noting that the Maine Legislature adjourned during the pandemic.
“She adjourned the legislature on March 17 and hasn’t lifted a finger to do anything about the coronavirus. She promised to provide aid to small businesses but did not do so,” Collins said.
Independent Max Linn denounced both of them, calling both of them “weak women” who were beholden to their parties. Also in the debate was another independent, educator Lisa Savage.
Collins is facing the toughest campaign of her career as she seeks a fifth term in Washington. Democrats, meanwhile, view unseating Collins as key to retaking control of the Senate.
The importance of the race is underscored by the millions of dollars pouring into Maine, making it the most expensive political race in state history.
Monday night was the first time the four candidates shared the stage since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the debate opened with a question about the highly politicized Supreme Court nomination process.
Gideon accused Collins of rubber-stamping 181 of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, saying “that has pushed the Supreme Court far to the right and made it very ideological.” She said the Supreme Court is about to take up the Affordable Care Act and potentially take health care away in the middle of a pandemic.
Collins said Gideon has refused to rule out “packing the court” and noted that she has opposed some of Trump’s judicial nominees.
Both Gideon and Collins agree on one thing: Both think the current vacancy on the court shouldn’t be filled until after the election.
Linn tried to steal the show as he has done in the past, continuing his combative attacks and theatrics by pulling out scissors and cutting up surgical masks, saying that people shouldn’t be forced by the government to wear them during the pandemic.
Savage, for her part, said she was the only candidate who wasn’t a millionaire and once again stressed the importance of ranked voting. She said people can vote for her and her values of “Medicare for All,” “Green New Deal” and demilitarization without fear of her being a spoiler.
The candidate will be selected by Mainers using ranked choice voting, in which voters can rank candidates in order of preference on the ballot.
It incorporates extra voting rounds, last-place finisher eliminations and reallocation of votes to ensure a majority winner.
Both Democrats and Republicans have so far spent or allocated more than $98 million on the Collins-Gideon race, with Democrats having a modest edge, according to the ad tracking company Kantar/CMAG.
The debate took place in Presque Isle, near Collins’ hometown of Caribou. WAGM-TV in Presque Isle and WABI-TV in Bangor were sponsors of the debate. Several more are planned before Election Day.
David Sharp, The Associated Press