In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Sara Gideon speaks in Portland. Credit: Courtesy of Sara Gideon for Maine via AP

A former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and U.S. Senate candidate said Wednesday she is donating $3.5 million in leftover campaign money to a civil legal aid nonprofit group in the state.

Sara Gideon, a Democrat, lost to Republican Sen. Susan Collins a year ago. Gideon said her donation to Maine Equal Justice will help the nonprofit create a new project that will create paths out of poverty for families.

The new effort will be called the Build Hope Project. The effort will be designed to create new economic opportunities for parents and children and help working parents complete degree and credential programs, Gideon said.

The gift “will provide immediate and significant support to working parents earning their degree, to their children — and ultimately to the entire state — by increasing the numbers of higher skilled workers badly needed by Maine’s employers and our economy,” Gideon said.

Gideon’s race against Collins broke state fundraising records. Gideon ended the election cycle with more than $10 million in campaign cash.