BANGOR — Jill Biden rallied Maine supporters a week before Election Day on Tuesday, asking them to vote not only for her husband but also to support Sara Gideon, who could help Democrats wrest back control of the U.S. Senate.

“With a blue Senate, Joe is going to be able to do so much more to get our country back on track, and Maine is critical,” Jill Biden told a crowd of about 100 masked and physically distanced individuals Tuesday afternoon outside the Thomas Hill Standpipe, a Bangor landmark. “That’s why you and Joe want Sara Gideon to be in the United States Senate. All eyes are on you, Maine.”

Her appearance comes just two days after President Trump made a surprise stop in Maine and two days before Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., plans to campaign here. The high level of interest in Maine, a state with only four Electoral College votes, underscores the stakes of this election on both sides.

Dr. Jill Biden campaigns for her husband, Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden, during a campaign rally at the Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor on Wednesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Joe Biden leads Trump in Maine by an average of 10 percentage points in public polling, but the race is much closer in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Bangor. Maine is one of two states that apportions its electoral votes by congressional district. Trump won Maine’s 2nd District – and one electoral vote – four years ago and is pushing to do so again.

Tuesday’s event in Bangor was a stark departure from Trump campaign events. Everyone wore a mask and was distanced, and organizers limited the number of people to about 100 to fall within the guidelines for gatherings set by Gov. Janet Mills.

Mills, who also attended and addressed the crowd, thanked supporters for doing their part to keep safe during the pandemic.

“We ask you to wear masks every day and you do,” she said. “We ask you to stay 6 feet apart and you do. We ask you to limit your gatherings, indoors and outdoors, and you have, and you do. And that is why Maine is one of the safest states in the nation still.”

The Maine Republican Party chided the event as a “poor showing.”

“While the President can bring out several thousand Mainers on only a few hours notice, the Biden campaign can’t even draw a few dozen supporters for a planned event,” party Chair Demi Kouzounas said in a statement.

Biden supporters sit at safe distances as Jill Biden stumps for her husband, Joe Biden, during a campaign rally in Bangor on Wednesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Gideon, who helped introduce Jill Biden, talked about the importance of change, not just in the White House but in the Senate. She cast Trump as a failure who “has been enabled and emboldened by this United State Senate, led by Mitch McConnell and supported by Susan Collins.”

“One thing that we have seen and heard from people all over this state is they are ready,” she said. “They are ready for new leaders and they are ready for leaders who show empathy and who have a vision for what we can be, not just here in Maine but all across this country.”

Annie Clark, campaign spokeswoman for Collins, said in a statement that Gideon has been more interested in campaigning than helping Mainers as speaker of the House.

“Gideon has inexcusably been on the sidelines during this time of need,” she said.

A Biden supporter tries to stay warm during a campaign rally at the Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor on Wednesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Jill Biden spoke for about 15 minutes. She talked about how proud she is to be an educator every time she hears stories of how teachers are navigating the pandemic. She reminisced about meeting her husband back in the 1970s, on a blind date, when he showed up at her townhouse in a crisp suit – looking far different from most of the men she’d dated to that point.

“When I agreed to marry him, he looked me in the eye and said ‘Jill, I promise you: Your life will never change.’ Well, that was a lie,” she said to laughs. “Our life has certainly changed. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the character of the man I married. The man who came home every night from Washington, D.C., to Wilmington, Delaware, to tuck our kids into bed while I studied for my doctorate. And the man who gives his cell number to grieving parents because he needs them to know that even though their hearts are shattered like ours were, they aren’t alone.”

Evelyn and Warren Silver of Dedham were among those who came to hear Biden speak. They said they’re hopeful for change this election and have been continually upset and discouraged by Trump’s leadership.

Sara Gideon, Maine House speaker and Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, poses for a picture with Keny Cistone, 10, during a campaign event in Bangor on Wednesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Warren Silver, a retired Maine Supreme Court Justice, said he’s particularly frustrated by Trump’s efforts to remake the judiciary into a partisan body, including with his recent appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Several young people attended as well, including Samantha Cloutier of Readfield, 19, a student at the University of Maine. Cloutier said social issues are most important to her, issues like equality and reproductive rights, and she’s concerned that four more years of Trump could erode advances.

“I’m ready to support a candidate who actually cares about issues that matter to me as a woman,” she said.


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