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Political Brew: A look at the state of the CD-2 and Senate races

Our political analysts look at whether the CD-2 race can stay civil, what to expect from the Senate debate, and why government hasn't provided more COVID-19 relief.

MAINE, USA — NEWS CENTER Maine's Political Brew is back.

We put these weekly Sunday morning segments on hold a couple of months ago after the sudden death of our longtime friend and Democratic analyst, former Speaker of the House John Richardson.

But with the campaign now at the Labor Day milestone, we're back, and we're bringing more voices to the discussion.

Over the next three weeks, you'll see all of our new combinations.

We begin this week with a charter member of the Political Brew team, former Republican State Senator Phil Harriman, and longtime progressive Democratic activist Betsy Sweet, most recently seen in the news as a candidate for U.S. Senate and Governor of Maine.

Maine's second district Congressional seat is seen as a toss-up by many observers, as Democratic freshman Rep. Jared Golden defends his seat in a district that went strongly for Donald Trump in 2016. 

RELATED: Catching up with the CD-2 candidates

Golden and Republican challenger Dale Crafts have begun advertising, and have produced only positive messages so far.

Harriman thinks that tone may change soon.

"Political action committees on both sides will jump into this race," says Harriman. He says, "Republicans will do whatever they can to win that race."

And he adds, "I believe that the candidates can stay on the high road, the positive road, and the political action committees can draw the distinctions."

Sweet says the political ads in CD-2 are a welcome change because voters are "sick of the negative advertising in all the other races."

She agrees that it's likely "the PACs will jump in and try to do some more of the negative stuff."

The first debate in Maine's hotly contested U.S. Senate race is set for this Friday, September 11th, here on NEWS CENTER Maine, in partnership with The Portland Press Herald and The Bangor Daily News.

RELATED: NEWS CENTER Maine, Portland Press Herald, and BDN partner to host US Senate debate next month

Betsy Sweet hopes we'll get to hear what the candidates are actually for. "I think we've got to get away from seeing why the other person is not good," Sweet says, "and really say 'these are the policies that I stand for.'"

And she thinks the questions need to be about their values and how they make decisions.

"What are you most proud of? When you don't know something, where do you get your information? When did you take a stand against something when people told you to do something differently? Those are the kinds of value and character things that I think people want to find out."

Phil Harriman thinks that would be a refreshing change from what he calls a mean and nasty campaign.

"It's like getting ahead by pulling the other person down. I think Maine citizens want to know why Susan Collins should stay in the seat, and Sara, what makes you the one who should replace Susan?'"

RELATED: Agree to Disagree: Episode 9. Phil and Ethan talk Trump v Biden, MPA v CDC with high school sports and our own Pat Callaghan in the hot seat

In Washington, there are many bills passed by the House awaiting action in the Senate, including the "Heroes Act" which would provide more pandemic relief.

Sweet says it's appalling that this has become "a political football."

She says "There are people with rents due, with mortgages due, trying to get healthcare for their loved ones, figuring out their jobs and unemployment, and the Senate takes off? I think that's a dereliction of their duties."

Harriman says the state also needs to take action. Gov. Janet Mills has given department heads seven more weeks to find budget cuts, in hopes that the federal government will come up with more money to soften the blow by then.

Harriman renewed his call for the governor to "bring the legislature in and begin the cost reductions. Don't wait for the federal government to borrow more money that we the people have to repay."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.