U.S. Senate candidate Ross LaJeunesse is calling for 16 public debates among Maine’s Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in November.

“Maine voters have a right to hear from the candidates,” said LaJeunesse, a former executive at Google. “Any candidate asking for a Maine voter’s vote should get in front of voters and explain why they’re running and what ideas they have for getting Maine and the country back on track.”

Four contenders are currently vying for the Democratic nomination and the chance to unseat Collins, who is seeking a fifth term. In addition to LaJeunesse, the others are Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, of Freeport; longtime progressive activist and lobbyist Betsy Sweet, of Hallowell; and Saco defense attorney Bre Kidman.

The four have appeared on stage together only once, at a November forum hosted by the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition in Rockport.

LaJeunesse, of Biddeford, is calling for debates in each county before the June 9 primary.

Among the Democratic contenders, Gideon is currently leading in fundraising, with $7.6 million raised as of the end of the year compared to LaJeunesse’s $600,205; Sweet’s $272,074; and Kidman’s $16,207.

A Colby College poll conducted in mid-February of more than 1,000 Maine voters showed Collins and Gideon with virtually identical support nine months before Election Day.

Gideon also had a commanding lead in the Colby poll over her challengers in the Democratic primary, with 60 percent of Democrats or independents who plan to register as Democrats indicating they support her.


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