Maine Dem Gideon Bails on Senate Debate

Candidate Sara Gideon reneges on pledge to six debates

Sara Gideon / Twitter Screenshot
October 28, 2020

Maine Democratic Senate candidate Sara Gideon, who criticized President Donald Trump for not attending a second presidential debate, canceled her debate with Republican rival Sen. Susan Collins at the last minute Tuesday.

Gideon, who said it was "really shameful" for Trump to forgo his debate, canceled her plans to appear in a one-on-one debate with Collins scheduled for Tuesday evening. The cancellation marks the latest in a string of instances in which the Democrat has refused to appear on the debate stage, to the chagrin of her political rivals.

"I think the American people are looking to hear substance on issues. They want to hear what plans each of the presidential candidates have," Gideon said about Trump's debate nonattendance. "I think it is really shameful that he is making this decision."

Gideon's Tuesday no-show is the fourth time the Democrat has refused to appear in a televised debate.

It is unclear why Gideon decided against showing up for the Tuesday debate, but she did appear at a campaign rally with Jill Biden a few hours before the debate was supposed to go on.

Gideon's debate nonattendance has become a contentious subject in a close Senate race that could affect Democrats' chances of retaking the upper chamber.

Recent campaign polls show that Gideon has a slight edge over the incumbent Collins, while a FiveThirtyEight analysis estimates that Collins has a roughly two-in-five chance of holding the seat.

When the Commission on Presidential Debates made its second debate into a virtual forum in light of Trump's COVID diagnosis, the president said he would only attend an in-person debate, leading to the event's cancellation.

While the Trump campaign explained its reasoning in a two-page memo, Gideon has yet to explain why she declined to attend her debate. The Gideon campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Gideon skipped three televised debates and at least five candidate forums during the primary season, drawing criticism from fellow liberals and progressives.

"[Gideon is] refusing to appear in forums where she would have to answer unscripted questions without being able to simply end the event when she got one she didn't like," Bre Kidman, who ran against Gideon for the Democratic nomination, told the Washington Free Beacon in June.

After Gideon's frequent debate nonappearances became a Collins campaign talking point, the Democrat sought to wipe her slate clean by challenging Collins to five debates. Collins responded to Gideon's challenge by demanding 16 debates—one for each county in Maine. The candidates settled on six debates before Tuesday's cancellation.

Gideon will participate in her final debate Wednesday. She currently has a slight edge in state polls, but Real Clear Politics still considers the race a tossup.