Friday night’s U.S. Senate debate between Republican incumbent Susan Collins, Democrat Sara Gideon and Independents Max Linn and Lisa Savage made me yearn for Maine’s senators of yesteryear.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

If Sept. 11’s debate is evidence, it’s time we face the facts: The days when Maine was represented in the U.S. Senate by people like Margaret Chase Smith, George Mitchell, Olympia Snowe and William Cohen are all but dead and gone, along with their distinguished statesmanlike demeanor.

On display during 2020’s first Senate debate was nothing of the sort. Candidates weren’t deep and meaningful. They weren’t reflective. They weren’t stately. Instead, the rushed, one-hour proceeding left the viewer feeling unsatisfied and harried because candidates tended toward the superficial.

And when candidates did provide direct answers, those responses were disheartening for anyone hoping Maine will have thoughtful and proud representation in the U.S. Senate.

Of course I’m going to vote for Collins, who more closely resembles my wishes for limited and reality-based government. But I wish I had a better option.

Two takeaways from Friday night’s debate regarding Collins were her unwillingness to support President Trump and her weak self-defense regarding her confirmation vote of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She’s always eager to tout her 100% voting record, but she needs to defend those votes more vigorously.

When Gideon asked her whether she would support Trump for president, Collins replied pathetically: “The people of Maine don’t need my advice.”

Why she failed to support Trump, the leader of her party who is under constant assault and needs and deserves his party leaders’ backing, is beyond me. Does Collins want a mentally failing, left-wing puppet, anti-oil, BLM-fearing, tax-raising China dove as president? I guess so.

And why she didn’t defend her role regarding Kavanaugh is more troubling. Mainers appreciate her for seeing through the lies and politics of that sordid affair. Her wisdom in that stressful situation was the stuff of legend and she’s foolish not to embrace her pivotal confirmation vote.

Regarding Gideon’s debate performance, she seems the most politically adept, which is not a compliment, but on top of current issues, which is a compliment. Gideon gave ready and steady answers to questions, especially regarding Democrats’ politically contrived issues of climate change and racial injustice.

While Collins failed to live up to my expectations, Gideon exceeded them.

Gideon’s poor leadership record, however, precedes her, especially her stint as speaker of the Maine House, which has been one of the weakest of all time because she has ceded all control to Gov. Janet Mills during the pandemic.

The two other debate participants, Independents Max Linn and Lisa Savage, made the night interesting, in a cuckoo kind of way.

Linn made a belligerent fool of himself by stating up front that he would “set aside” moderators’ questions and instead get out his own soundbites as he wished. His debate temperament was not senatorial.

Savage held her own, spoke up forcefully when Linn’s embarrassing rants ate into her time, but lost me when she voiced support for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, which will cause budgetary and societal upheaval if passed. Someone with fanciful, utopian notions like those shouldn’t be our senator, either.

I appreciate these four debating in person during a pandemic and I’m looking forward to the next one. Let’s just hope it reveals more statesmanlike behavior like Maine’s days of political yore.

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