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In Maine Senate race, the candidates get personal, and even their husbands are targets for attacks
In a race in Maine that's rated a tossup and could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Susan Collins (left) is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon. (AP) In a race in Maine that's rated a tossup and could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Susan Collins (left) is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon. (AP)

In a race in Maine that's rated a tossup and could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Susan Collins (left) is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 30, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Among the personal attacks leveled against the two candidates are claims that mention the husband of each candidate.
  • None of the five claims we've checked have rated better than Half True on our Truth-O-Meter.

Personal attacks, including claims against both candidates’ husbands, have marked a race in Maine that could help determine whether Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate.

GOP incumbent Susan Collins has held the seat since 1997. A challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon, who has served in Maine’s state House since 2013 and as its speaker since 2016, has made the race a tossup, according to the Cook Political Report.  

The race is one of 18 pivotal House and Senate contests up for election Nov. 3 that PolitiFact is tracking. Its outcome could help determine whether Republicans keep control of the Senate, where they now have 53 seats. 

Attacks on Collins

OxyContin money: Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate, said that Collins "voted against accountability for opioid makers" and that she denied taking campaign money from a family who made its wealth selling OxyContin.

Our rating was Mostly False.

Collins voted against one measure that would have punished opioid manufacturers and their executives because she said it was overly broad. She also voted for measures to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for the distribution of suspiciously large orders of drugs and for drug diversion.

Collins did say no when asked if she had taken campaign money from members of the Sackler family that owns the company that makes OxyContin. She received one contribution — $2,300 in 2007 — from one family member.

Collins’ husband’s business: Gideon claimed Collins "pushed for policies that benefited her husband’s lobbying business."

Our rating: Mostly False.

The claim pertained to Collins’ husband Thomas Daffron, formerly the chief operating officer of Jefferson Consulting Group, a lobbying and consulting firm.

Two actions taken by Collins, both of which occurred before she married Daffron, were general and not targeted to help her future husband’s lobbying firm. She voted for repealing a tax on government contractors that had never been collected and led an effort against requiring contractors to disclose their political giving.

Attacks on Gideon

Gideon’s husband’s business: Collins said Gideon’s husband’s law firm "took up to $2 million" from the same federal program that Gideon "falsely" attacked Susan Collins over.

Our rating was Half True

The law firm that employs Gideon’s husband, personal-injury attorney Benjamin Gideon, received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of between $1 million and $2 million. Gideon attacked Collins over the PPP, which was a response to the coronavirus pandemic; some of her points were accurate. Collins did write an exception in the law for hotels after receiving campaign donations from hotel political action committees.

Defunding the police: Collins claimed Gideon "voted to defund" the Freeport police "and gave the money to a nonprofit she helped run."

Our rating: False

As a town council member in Freeport, Maine, Gideon voted to consolidate police dispatch services with a neighboring community, saving the town money.

Gideon didn’t give town funds to the nonprofit for which she served as a board member. She joined in a town council vote to forgive part of a loan to the nonprofit, a move unrelated to the dispatch consolidation.

Lawmaker scandal: The National Republican Senatorial Committee claimed Gideon "knew the truth about" sexual allegations against a state lawmaker, and "she could have called for an immediate investigation, but didn’t…Gideon knew for months, using her power to cover up."

Our rating: Mostly False.

Gideon said that in early 2018 she heard rumors that a state House member, Democratic Rep. Dillon Bates, had engaged in sexual misconduct with teenage students, but that she was aware of no proof.

The NRSC accused Gideon of a coverup for not ordering an ethics investigation, but cited no actions by Gideon to cover up the allegations.

The day after the allegations were made public in a news article, Gideon called for Bates’ resignation.

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In Maine Senate race, the candidates get personal, and even their husbands are targets for attacks