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Betsy Sweet holds town hall at UMaine

On Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m., U.S. Senate candidate Betsy Sweet held a town hall in the Memorial Union at the University of Maine. This town hall address is the 11th in Sweet’s Town Hall Tour and her first held in Orono. Sweet used this event as an opportunity to open up a dialogue with UMaine students and local voters about highly contentious political issues and to speak about universal healthcare, climate change, student loan debt and immigration.

As a progressive democrat, Sweet finds these four issues to be particularly important. Sweet believes that in order for our country and economy to thrive, we must have medicare for all, a green new deal, affordable college and more resources for new citizens and refugees. 

Sweet explained to the audience why these policies had not been implemented. She feels as though donations from lobbyists in favor of pharmaceuticals, fossil fuels and more are buying the votes of their legislators to prevent progressive action. 

“There is a thread connecting these issues,” Sweet remarked. “[It is] big money in politics.” 

One of Sweet’s main agendas is to separate private interest groups and their money from the political sphere. Sweet is a strong proponent of campaigns that are not funded by dark money and private interest groups. She used the Maine Clean Elections Act, which sets limits on donations and disallows money from Political Action Committees (PACs) and Super Political Action Committees (SuperPACs) to fund her current and former political campaigns. Sweet also backed a campaign promise to overturn Citizens United. Citizens United was a ruling which determined money was a form of speech, and that lobbyists and corporations could use it freely in campaign spending.

This campaign promise was popular with Sweet’s supporters. Her announcement of this particular platform was met with cheers and applause from the audience.

A number of UMaine students also supported Sweet because of the Justice Democrats’ recent endorsement of her. According to their website, Justice Democrats is an organization that hopes to “usher in a new generation of diverse working-class leaders into the Democratic Party.” 

Harry Freeman, a UMaine student and member of the University of Maine College Democrats, said that the Justice Democrats’ endorsement of Sweet made him more confident in her ability to lean left and bring progressive policies to the forefront. 

“The Justice Democrats are one of the most progressive organizations in the country at the moment,” Freeman said, noting that “they could make [Sweet] the next Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez.”

However, not everyone was happy about Sweet’s left-leaning platform and political standing. Four members of the University of Maine College Republicans showed up to protest with signs that read, “Stop the madness,” and “Stop the witch hunt.” 

The UMaine College Republicans declined to comment and referred the Maine Campus to one of the Maine Republican Party’s communications and research specialists, Nina McLaughlin.

McLaughlin expressed that she found Sweet to be too liberal and partisan. She also found Sweet’s disapproval of Trump problematic, fearing that it would make her unfit to represent Maine voters in the Senate, and may even lead a step closer to Trump’s impeachment. 

“Betsy Sweet is severely misled if she thinks that joining Nancy Pelosi and the socialist squad on their impeachment witch hunt will win her support from Mainers,” McLaughlin said. “Instead of playing partisan politics with Pelosi, Sweet should stop the madness and stand with Mainers who gave the President their vote.”

Even with protestors and opponents in the audience, Sweet introduced her cutting-edge, controversial platforms in an exciting and open-minded manner. She showed a community of students, voters and skeptics what a progressive politician looks like while pushing for productive and open dialogue at the same time. 

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