Sara Gideon (left) and Eric Brakey are two candidates who will not appear in upcoming televised debates ahead of the state's July 14 primary. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP; Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Televised candidate forums for the U.S. Senate and 2nd Congressional District primaries kick off this week, although prominent candidates will be absent from each.

The first forum, airing on News Center Maine at 7 p.m. Monday, features progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet and lawyer Bre Kidman, both of whom are competing for the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Susan Collins. Notably absent will be House Speaker Sara Gideon, considered the favorite for the Democratic nod.

The second event, for candidates competing in the Republican primary to challenge Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District, will air on News Center Maine at 7 p.m. Wednesday. It will feature former state Rep. Dale Crafts and real estate agent Adrienne Bennett, who was press secretary to former Gov. Paul LePage. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey won’t be taking part.

Both forums will be conducted remotely, with candidates participating from their homes using Zoom.

A spokesperson for Brakey said the former state senator had previously scheduled a roundtable with veterans for that evening and preferred to debate in person rather than via Zoom. Gideon’s campaign said the Monday forum did not work for her but that she would participate in two forums with Sweet and Kidman prior to the primary.

Primaries for both races will take place on July 14, pushed back from the originally scheduled date of June 9 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Despite virus concerns, the election will largely proceed as normal, though municipal officials are encouraging voters to request absentee ballots in order to reduce crowding at polling stations.

Gideon, who has the endorsement of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, is widely considered to be the favorite in the primary. She set a record for the most money raised during a Maine campaign with more than $14 million in contributions as of the end of the last quarter. The Freeport Democrat has also been the primary target of outside spending from Republican-affiliated groups, as well as attacks from Collins’ campaign.

Sweet, who finished third in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, has the endorsement of Justice Democrats, a national progressive group founded by former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers. Polling for the primary has been relatively scarce, though one March poll gave Gideon a significant lead.

In the 2nd District race, Brakey has led his two opponents in fundraising, though all three candidates saw relatively slow fundraising numbers during the first quarter of 2020. Crafts, of Lisbon, has LePage’s endorsement. Public polling of the race has not been available.