Maine’s four candidates for U.S. Senate held their second televised debate of the campaign Monday night, fielding questions about the current drought and how it has been affected by climate change, about saving the U.S. Postal Service, and relief for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins is facing a challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House, independent Max Linn and independent Green Party candidate Lisa Savage.

WAGM-TV, a CBS and Fox affiliate in Presque Isle, hosted Monday night’s hour-long debate from its studios in Presque Isle, a community not far from Collins’ hometown of Caribou.

Monday’s debate consisted of questions posed by journalists as well as from viewers. When asked why she no longer supports term limits, Collins, who once went on the record as saying senators should be capped at two terms, responded by saying that seniority matters in Congress. Collins has served in the Senate for more than two decades. She said her experience has given her clout, noting she has been able to push through legislation that has led to transportation improvements throughout Maine as well as procuring Navy shipbuilding contracts for Bath Iron Works.

But Gideon slammed Collins, saying, “Sen. Collins talks often about seniority, she talks about being in Washington 24 years, but whether it’s protecting pre-existing conditions, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, or bringing more COVID relief home she has not been able to do it and that seniority doesn’t seem to matter to Mainers.”

Collins criticized Gideon for not calling legislators back into session during a public health crisis. Collins said Gideon was in a position of leadership and “she has done nothing” to provide relief to her constituents during the past six months. Collins co-sponsored the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided more than $2 billion in aid to Maine businesses.

Gideon told Collins that she made sure that Democratic Gov. Janet Mills had the resources to contend with the pandemic before the Legislature adjourned. Gideon said more federal stimulus money is needed if local and state government is to survive the current pandemic.

“Sen. Collins has refused to hold Trump accountable for his COVID-19 response and failed to act,” Gideon said. “I worked across the aisle to address this crisis here in Maine, and that is what I will do in the Senate.”

Collins said she will work to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service remains viable, saying it is “absolutely essential” especially in a rural state such as Maine, where residents depend on deliveries of medications and Social Security checks. Savage blamed the postmaster general Louis DeJoy for mail delays and said, “DeJoy needs to go.”

Savage repeatedly reminded voters that the Nov. 3 election for Senate will use ranked-choice voting.

“Ranked-choice voting gives Mainers the opportunity to elect a senator who works for the people, not the rich,” Savage said. “I’m the only non-millionaire in this race and the only candidate for Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, and ending endless wars and making the rich pay their taxes.”

Savage and Gideon each blamed the drought on climate change – something Trump has denied is happening – and said that more needs to be done to protect the state’s farmers, fishermen and loggers from the adverse effects of global warming.

Linn, who supports Trump’s re-election campaign, resisted answering a moderator’s questions during the first debate and once again attempted to draw attention to his campaign on Monday, labeling Collins and Gideon as weak leaders who are puppets of their respective political parties.

On at least two occasions, Linn injected answers to debate questions with observations that both candidates refused to look at him or to debate him.

“How in the heck are they going to challenge the real issues they will face in Washington?” Linn asked.

The debate was the second involving all four candidates and follows a lively debate earlier this month that was hosted by the Portland Press Herald, the Bangor Daily News and News Center Maine.

The latest poll of the U.S. Senate race in Maine, released last week by Colby College, shows Gideon maintaining a narrow lead over Collins. The poll also suggests neither candidate has a clear advantage with ranked-choice voting in place for the November election.

In the survey of 847 likely voters conducted between Sept. 21-24, 45 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for Gideon while 41 percent favored Collins. Five percent said they supported Republican-turned-independent Linn while 3 percent picked Savage. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.


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