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Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said at her final debate that she does not believe systemic racism is a problem in her state. 

Collins, one of the most vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection, was debating Maine’s progressive House Speaker Sarah Gideon, who is running for her seat. Collins was the only Republican to vote against Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. 

Collins was asked by the moderator at the debate this week: “Is the phrase ‘Black lives matter’ controversial, and is there a systemic racism problem here in Maine?”

The moderator noted that while Maine’s population is mostly White, at 94 percent, the state is home to a sizable refugee community, with some Somali and Sudanese immigrants

“I do not believe systemic racism is a problem in the state of Maine,” the Collins said. 

“I don’t think the phrase ‘Black lives matter’ should be controversial,” she added, “it’s clear that in some parts of our country there is systemic racism or problems in police departments.”


But the senator praised Maine’s law enforcement.  “We are very fortunate in the state of Maine because we have terrific members of law enforcement,” she said. 

Collins noted that she had co-sponsored police reform legislation in the Senate, but “regrettably, it became the victim once again of partisan politics.”

The Senate and the House each introduced police reform bills following George Floyd’s death, but neither was passed into law. Collins said Floyd’s death “should horrify all of us and those responsible should be held accountable.”


Gideon pushed back on Collins’ assertion that systemic racism was not a problem in Maine. 

Answering the same question, Gideon said: “Black lives do matter, and the reason we have to say it is because there is a legacy of bigotry in this country that results in systemic racism.” 

The Democrat noted racial disparities in Maine.

“It doesn’t matter how White our state is — it still exists. When we look at the incidences, for example, of the number of people of color who here in the state of Maine had a positive Covid infection rate and how outsized that was compared to the rest of the population. We see it in terms of access to education for people of color, access to health care, rates of poverty, rates of incarceration — and we do have to do something about it,” Gideon said.

Collins has served as senator since 1996, but Senate Democrats have made Collins’ seat one of their biggest targets as they fight to the bitter end to win back control of the Senate, pouring money into the race. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, the latest polls give Gideon a slim two-point lead in the race.

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