MAINE, USA — The country’s continuing struggle against COVID-19 continues as a central issue for Americans and their government. This week’s topics include battling the pandemic and Congress confronting tax increases. At the same time, Maine wrestles with political redistricting, and former Senate candidate Sara Gideon is getting new attention for continuing to hold on to a $10 million accumulation of 2020 Senate campaign funds.
Both Political Brew analysts Phil Harriman and Betsy Sweet see expanding vaccinations as the key to fighting the virus. However, Harriman says the government is already doing all it can to provide the needed information to make their own decisions about getting the vaccine. At the same time, Sweet sees more work required by the government to raise the number of vaccinated.
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In Maine, the special commission tasked with drawing new district lines for the state’s two congressional seats and the Maine House and Senate districts has one week to complete its work, and both analysts said the results are essential for Maine voters. They pointed out that, for some Mainers, the final results will move them to different Congressional districts, meaning they will have to choose from less-familiar candidates in the 2022 election.
Both Sweet and Harriman agreed that the current redistricting procedures need to be scrapped and replaced with a method not controlled by politicians. The current redistricting debates, they said, are dominated by the parties trying to juggle district lines to gain an advantage over the other.
But analysts also agreed candidates should not hang onto vast amounts of campaign donations once the campaigns are over. That discussion prompted new attention to Sara Gideon holding a $10 million bank account of contributions from her unsuccessful 2020 U.S. Senate race. Gideon has given some money to non-profit causes and the Democratic Party, but at the same time is expanding the fund by renting out donor lists to other political groups, according to recent news reports.
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Betsy Sweet—who ran against Gideon in the 2020 party primary—has long been a critic of campaign finance laws and some candidates' tremendous amounts of money. She and Phil Harriman agreed the laws need to be changed, so federal candidates can’t hold on to large “war chests” of money. They suggest that losing candidates, in particular, should get rid of the remaining money by donating it to non-profits, setting up scholarship funds, or even returning it to the original donors.
Political Brew airs Sundays on the Weekend Morning Report.