Four candidates for the democratic nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate Race appeared at Camden Hills Regional High School Saturday Nov. 23 to respond to questions from local high school students.

The event was organized by the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition and Knox County Democrats.

Sara Gideon, Bre Kidman, Ross Lajeunesse and Betsy Sweet fielded questions from the student panel about gun control, climate change, healthcare, education and Republican incumbent Susan Collins.

Meredith Luce, a junior at CHRHS, speaking on behalf of MTAC, began the forum by talking about the formation of the group in the immediate aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Luce said “Around this time I lost faith in government,” and its ability to address the critical issues facing the country.

“The world has put an enormous amount of responsibility in our hands,” she said.

Next the students showed a short video featuring climate activist Greta Thunberg focusing on the climate crisis and the ways the political establishment has turned its back on the world’s youth by failing to act to address an issue so critical to their future.

In keeping with these themes, many of the questions centered on subjects related to the concerns of the young activists on stage.

The format of the forum, with each candidate fielding questions for about 10 minutes before passing the microphone, did not yield much disagreement among the candidates, but there were distinctions made on several policy positions.

On healthcare, both Sweet and Kidman advocated for Medicare for all, largely on the grounds that better, cheaper health care can be very effective in addressing the underlying issues behind a number of problems facing the state and country such as poverty, substance abuse and incarceration.

Gideon supported the more moderate position that Medicare should be available to everyone but people should be able to keep their private insurance if they choose.

Gideon also said she believed steps should be taken to make higher education much more affordable but stopped short of calling for the free college and student loan forgiveness proposals from Sweet and Kidman who said they would fund such plans by raising taxes on wealth.

“What are you going to do with a billion dollars?” asked Kidman, “besides buy elections.”

Kidman, who is the first non-binary person to run for senate said “I won’t be the last,” and said one of the main reasons for her campaign is to bring attention to the issue of wasteful campaign fundraising.

Sweet called the current moment “a pivot point in democracy,” and voiced her support for proposals like the Green New Deal and free college tuition that many consider too extreme or impossible to implement, noting the work she has done as an activist throughout her career in achieving a number of victories that were considered impossible at the time.

LaJeunesse said that the common thread running through many of the problems facing Maine people is Susan Collins, saying that Mainers deserve a senator who is loyal to the Maine people over corporate interests.

Gideon who is the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives made the case that her work as Speaker, getting bills passed and working to improve Maine in spite of the obstructionist efforts of former Gov. Paul LePage, prepared her to take on Donald Trump, saying, “I know how to stand up to a bully. And more importantly I know how to work around a bully.”

The forum was followed by a meet and greet with the candidates in the CHRHS lobby with the League of Women Voters on hand to register voters.