Martin Novom is an undecided voter. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Martin Novom of Clifton describes himself as being “seriously torn” on whether to vote for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins or House Speaker Sara Gideon.

It is not about the competence of the two frontrunners, who he believes will do a “fine job” for Maine. It is not even about political affiliation — although Novom describes himself as being an independent, Novom said he tends to vote for Democrats and plans to support Joe Biden for president on Nov. 3.

He likes “the candidate with heart” and evaluates them based on their interest in the common good. That tracks with the 72-year-old’s interest in philanthropy and job as a fundraising consultant for nonprofits. He is working on a book studying the origins of American philanthropy.

It is the national implications of the race that most weigh on Novom. He likes Collins because he views her as one of the last Republicans willing to work across the aisle. Most Republicans approach politics with a “take no prisoners approach, but that’s not how Susan Collins operates,” he said, pointing to her not supporting Trump in 2016 and speaking out against filling an open U.S. Supreme Court seat before the election.

He also worries that losing Collins and her 24 years of experience will mean losing someone with influence who follows her heart, not her party. But Novom is also thinking about how the presidential race may play out.

If Biden wins, having Collins in office could encourage a more collaborative atmosphere. But if Trump wins, the Senate will need as many Democrats — like Gideon — as possible to stop what Novom described as the president’s “I-me-mine” politics — a style that puts individual interest over the common good, he said.

In that case, having Gideon in office would be an asset, he said. At this point, “I would say I’m a little tipped toward Gideon,” Novom said.

“But I’m still going, ‘Oh God, is this the right thing to do?’” he added.

Novom said he is concerned about health care and the future of the Affordable Care Act, which he likes. He sees both candidates as trying to appeal to moderates on the issue, with Collins turning back Republican bids to ax the law in 2017 and Gideon supporting a public option.

The Bangor Daily News is following undecided voters ahead of the 2020 election. Read more about the project here. This series was produced with support from a grant from the American Press Institute.