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Who is Sara Gideon? A look at the Democratic challenger to Maine’s Susan Collins

Sara Gideon.
Sara Gideon.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Senator Susan Collins in November in one of the nation’s closest-watched Senate races this year.

Collins, viewed as a vulnerable incumbent in a state that recently elected a Democratic governor, is one of a handful of Republicans whose possible losses could flip control of the Senate to Democrats.

Gideon on Tuesday handily defeated activist Betsy Sweet and lawyer Bre Kidman with 70 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning. Here’s what to know about her:

She currently serves as Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives

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Gideon has been a member of the Maine House of Representatives since 2013 and was elected Speaker in 2016. In Maine, House members are prohibited from serving more than four consecutive two-year terms, meaning Gideon cannot run again for her House seat.

She’s running in part because she says Collins has lost her reputation for independence

Gideon has made opposition to Collins a major focus of her campaign.

“At one point maybe she was different than some of the folks in Washington, but she doesn’t seem that way anymore,” Gideon said in a 2019 video announcing she was entering the race.

Gideon cited a number of votes Collins took in favor of Republicans during the Trump administration, including her critical vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“Susan Collins’ vote to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court may be paying off for her, but it’s put women’s control over their own health care decisions in extreme jeopardy,” she said in the video.

She has sought to cast herself as someone who can unite Republicans and Democrats.

“After some of the most contentious years in state government, I’ve made it clear that I will, and can, work with anyone to get things done,” she said in an election night victory speech streamed over Facebook on Tuesday.

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She says a major priority of hers is health care

Gideon says she is in favor of allowing people to buy into Medicare while also retaining the private insurance industry.

“Nobody in Maine should be deciding between whether they go to a doctor, whether they buy their medicine or whether they’re putting food on the table,” she said during an interview with Maine Public Radio last year.

She’s well funded and brought in more than double what Collins raised during the last quarter

The national attention to the Maine race has attracted a ton of cash.

Gideon raised $8.1 million from the beginning of April through the closing days of June, according to federal campaign filings, compared to Collins’ $3 million. She had $5.5 million cash on hand at the end of the quarter, while Collins had about $5 million.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the race became the most expensive in the state’s history back in April, and it’s being flooded with outside money.

She’s a Rhode Island native and the daughter of an immigrant

Gideon was born in Rhode Island and graduated from East Greenwich High School in 1989. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and moved to Freeport, where she lives with her husband and three children, in 2004.

Gideon’s father immigrated from India, and her maternal grandparents escaped the Armenian genocide, according to a bio from EMILY’s List.

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Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.