SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Betsy Sweet talks somewhat like a political outsider. She isn’t one. But she looks like one in an underdog Democratic primary challenge to the party-backed House Speaker Sara Gideon for the right to face U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in 2020.
The slight is animating Sweet, a Hallowell lobbyist who finished third in the 2018 gubernatorial primary and is one of four others running for the nomination. She wrote a fundraising email last week directed at national Democrats that said Mainers want progressive leaders who will “say what we believe, even if it means stepping on some donor’s thousand-dollar shoes.”
The different approaches of Sweet and Gideon of Freeport were on display in stump speeches at a Democratic barbecue in South Portland on Saturday.
Gideon contrasted bipartisan actions in the Maine Legislature with relative inaction in Congress, highlighted her battles in Augusta with former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, argued that Collins is “not who she once was” under President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.
“We need a champion and that’s who I promise to be for all of you,” she said.
Sweet said “raising a ton of money” for “negative ads” and “nibbling around the edges” on policy won’t work. She floated a proposed constitutional change to create a publicly funded federal election system, limit campaigns to 12 weeks and allow only individuals to give to campaigns.
“What is exciting people around this country are bold ideas like a Green New Deal, like Medicare for all, like eliminating student debt,” she said in reference to proposals from congressional progressives that are litmus tests in the Democratic presidential primary.
Gideon hasn’t discussed policy much so far. In her stump speech, she called for “bold, immediate action on climate change” and said “affordable, quality health care” is a “human right.” In an interview, she stopped short of backing the Green New Deal and Medicare for all.
Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...
More by Michael Shepherd