In this May 19, 2018, file photo, Betsy Sweet speaks at the Democratic convention in Lewiston. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

I spent my July 4 holiday distributing campaign signs for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Betsy Sweet.

I did so because, despite Donald Trump, I believe the current state of the U.S. Senate is this nation’s real problem, a problem which will continue as long as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains in power. McConnell is slowly tearing away at the fabric of the United States, loading the courts with politically minded judges, refusing to even consider worthy House-sponsored legislation, and enabling Trump at every turn. He needs to go, and getting Susan Collins out of the Senate is an important part of that process.

The national Democratic Party hierarchy, abandoning all semblance of fairness or rank-and-file democracy, has ordained that Sara Gideon will be the nominee to take on Collins this fall. The problem is that I believe Gideon will not win that race.

Gideon and Collins both continue to advocate for employer-based health care, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that it doesn’t work in troubled times and we need single-payer, universal health care – Medicare for All in today’s parlance.

Neither Gideon nor Collins has championed activist programs to urgently deal with climate change such as the Green New Deal. Instead, they simply offer undated platitudes that kick the can down the road.

If Gideon is the Democratic nominee, by November we will be so tired of the meaningless — and ever more ugly — television ads that I fear most voters will simply stop listening and vote for the “moderate” they know rather than the one they don’t know. Which gives us six more years of Collins and McConnell.

By contrast, Sweet has a 37-year history of activism in Maine, working on behalf of a rainbow of people and causes to make Maine a better place. She knows how government works. In the course of her gubernatorial campaign in 2018, Sweet learned that many of Maine’s problems stem from Washington, and she offers a solid vision for repairing and improving the health and quality of our country.

Gideon has refused to participate in many of the Democratic forums that have been held, relying on her TV ads to tell her story. Her “frontrunner” status in the primary is because her campaign is basically being funded and run out of Washington.

Sweet shows the fire-in-the-belly enthusiasm I want to see in a candidate and in my U.S. senator. She is not scripted. She answers every question asked of her. Her campaign has a heart and soul that’s lacking in Gideon’s. Sweet brings new energy and life to the race, which I think is inspiring and can lead to success in November. True, she has not held public office, but neither had George Mitchell when he first became a senator.

It’s unfortunate that the tidal wave of Collins-Gideon TV ads and the small amount of media coverage that Sweet and the third Democratic candidate Bre Kidman have make it look like Gideon is the only game in town. If Gideon wins the nomination Tuesday, I will be voting against Collins this fall. But I worry whether in this political climate it’s wise to throw one more middle-of-the-road candidate against Collins.

A primary win for Sweet puts us on a new path toward November. We can’t go back to the old normal. We need a new normal. Sweet can be part of that.

So I believe my Independence Day travels were worth it, and I hope they help make all the difference.

David Bright operates a small farm in Dixmont with his wife.