Pressed on the subject, Gideon, who serves as speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, said that she "immediately" called on fellow Democrat Dillon Bates to resign when she heard about the allegations. But she has previously admitted that she knew of the allegations for months and did not pursue an investigation.
"When there was an allegation that came forward, and it was anonymous still, I did immediately call on the state representative to resign," Gideon said at the debate.
Bates allegedly engaged in inappropriate relationships with high school girls while a teacher in Maine high schools. State officials declined to renew his teaching license in the wake of the allegations.
Gideon's spokeswoman admitted after the accusations became public that Gideon had heard rumors of allegations against Bates for months but decided against investigating after he denied wrongdoing. The Maine House speaker only called for Bates’s resignation after the Bollard, a monthly magazine, published an anonymous accuser's accusations against the state legislator in August 2018. He resigned two weeks later.
Paula Sutton, then a Republican state legislator in Maine, called for an ethics probe into Gideon’s office for refusing to investigate her colleague. Gideon rounded up Democrats—who hold the majority in the state house—to shoot down the probe, the Free Beacon previously reported. Sutton told the Free Beacon in September that she believes Gideon’s refusal to investigate her colleague was solely based on politics.
"Sara Gideon had an opportunity for full transparency, and she voted it down," Sutton said. "They just want to crush the problem, because they’re afraid to deal with it. It’s just a lack of courage—a complete lack of conviction and courage."
Gideon will face incumbent Republican senator Susan Collins in next week’s general election.