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Political Brew: Candidate forums, Confederate symbols, and getting Maine lawmakers back to work

Maine politicians are gearing up for the state primary on July 14.

MAINE, USA — Maine has primary elections on July 14. The first televised debates in the two marquee races were held this past week, in a pair of NEWS CENTER Maine "Voice of the Voter" forums.

In the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, candidates Bre Kidman and Betsy Sweet talked about the issues in their race. The highest-profile candidate, Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, chose not to take part in this first, statewide televised discussion.

Democratic political analyst John Richardson says he thinks Betsy Sweet debated well and won the evening. But he says because of the millions of dollars Gideon has at her disposal for advertising, and the constant barrage of TV spots, "It's an uphill battle" for Sweet and Kidman.

Republican analyst Phil Harriman puts it more bluntly: "I'm convinced they do not have a chance of winning."

Harriman acknowledges that many voters may not even be aware that there is a primary in the effort to challenge Sen. Susan Collins in the fall.

RELATED: Voice of the Voter Forums

Watch the Democratic Senate candidate forum here:

There's a Republican primary among three candidates hoping to take on Rep. Jared Golden in Maine's second Congressional district.

Adrienne Bennett and Dale Crafts joined our "Voice of the Voter" forum. The third candidate, Eric Brakey, declined.

Bennett spent much of her time expressing her support for President Trump and his policies. Crafts also says he wants to work with the president, but he is able to remind voters that another popular Republican in that district, former Gov. Paul LePage, recruited Crafts to run.

Harriman feels "the endorsement by Gov. LePage probably gives him a leg up... that was a big boost" for Crafts.

Richardson says Bennett needed to emphasize her support of the president, but "all politics is local, and saying that Paul LePage supports [Crafts] in this primary trumps everything, no pun intended."

Watch the Republican Congressional candidate forum here:

There is much discussion right now about removing symbols of the Confederacy, including removing statues and monuments, and re-naming military bases named for Confederate officers.

President Trump has chosen to defend them on the basis of preserving our heritage.

John Richardson says "President Trump is on the wrong side of history trying to defend the Confederacy, which is tantamount to supporting slavery."

But Phil Harriman believes "we have to pause and ask ourselves, 'if we destroy and take down all these symbols, who is going to remember the history? Why not consider erecting something alongside them that tells the rest of the story so future citizens can understand our history even as painful as it is?'"

RELATED: Historical figures reassessed around globe after George Floyd's death

RELATED: Sen. King weighs in on Confederate monument discussion

Maine legislative leaders are looking at a return to the State House. It has been almost three months since they adjourned and gave Gov. Janet Mills broad emergency powers to address the pandemic.

Harriman says, "The legislature should have been suited up and in their seats two months ago... Both Democrats and Republicans are frustrated and they want to get back to work."

And Richardson thinks leadership is under a lot of pressure to act. 

"I think they're hearing loud and clear from constituents that it's time for the Legislature to step in and be a part of the solution. Maine has received $1.25 billion under the CARES Act. It is the responsibility of the legislature to figure out how to spend that money, and you can't just leave it to the governor to do so."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Weekend Morning Report.

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