On Thursday, the University of Maine College Democrats hosted Maine’s Speaker of the House and current U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon for a town-hall discussion with the UMaine community. Thursday’s town-hall was the College Democrats’ second such event of the year, after last month’s hosting of Democratic Senate candidate Betsy Sweet.
Held in Room 217 of the Donald P. Corbett building, the discussion, which was attended by around 50 students, lasted for approximately an hour, and was divided into a preliminary round of questions from executives in the College Democrats and a following meet-and-greet session during which each attendee was given the opportunity to converse with Gideon.
Before the question and answer session began, Gideon was allowed the chance to both introduce herself and share personal accounts of her life in politics. The thought of running for political office, she explained, had not occurred to her until an acquaintance encouraged her husband to do so. She soon realized that public service would be better suited to her disposition, and decided to run herself for a seat on the town council in Freeport, Maine. So began a career in State politics that has provided Gideon with four legislative terms in the Maine House of Representatives, and two as the House’s Speaker. With her time of service in Augusta now approaching its legal limit, Gideon chose to run for U.S. Senate against the State’s senior Senator Susan Collins, who has represented Maine for nearly 23 years.
Club President and third-year electrical engineering student Liam Kent compiled a list of questions that were asked of Gideon by fellow club member, second-year political science and international relations student Virginia Hugo-Vidal. Throughout the question and answer session, Gideon expressed her support for provisions of the Affordable Care Act, her determination to combat global climate change and her openness to increased taxation on vapor cigarettes. On issues of local importance, Gideon explained her opposition to the Central Maine Power corridor and her desire to construct a statewide network of broadband internet service. When asked what she considered to be her most significant legislative achievement in Augusta, Gideon recounted her sponsoring of a bill that expanded the use of Narcan in cases of drug overdose.
After concluding their question and answer session, Kent and Hugo-Vidal gave each attendee an opportunity to meet the State Speaker and ask her any further questions they might have had.
“The event went very well, and we are excited about having candidates come to the University,” Hugo Vidal said. “As a woman in politics, it’s great to see strong women like Betsy Sweet and Sara Gideon leading the way and having strong legacies in legislation.”
Declan Downey, the vice-president of the UMaine College Democrats spoke with the Maine Campus after the event had ended.
“It was great that she came,” Downey said. “We are trying to have as many (candidates) as we can before election 2020. As the UMaine College Democrats, we are trying to facilitate debates and engage with candidates. Whoever the candidate may be against Susan Collins, we will throw our weight behind them.”
The UMaine College Democrats is a subsidiary organization of the Maine College Democrats, which is itself an arm of the Maine Democratic Party (MDP). Club President Kent also serves as the Vice-President of the statewide College Democrats’ Club and described some of his group’s history and its primary objectives.
“As far as I know, (the Club) has been around since the 1980s in some way, shape or form,” Kent said. “Our current club is based off the restructuring/revitalization of UMCD that occurred in 2013.”
“UMCD is a chapter of the Maine College Democrats which is the student arm of the MDP, and the MDP State Committee has authority over the MCD,” Kent noted. “Our goal this year is to both help educate students about this upcoming election, help them register to vote, and the other things related to elections — but we also want our members and students alike to feel like they have a say in their government.”
When asked for the club’s plans in the coming months, Kent expressed his desire to host candidates from the Democratic Presidential primary field for similar town-hall discussions.
“I welcomed Speaker Gideon to campus and looked forward to students getting the opportunity to meet and hear from her on a range of issues,” Kent said, “and [I] look forward to working with, and having students hear from, other candidates and campaigns that want to come to UMaine.”