Sara Gideon (left) and Susan Collins kicked off their campaigns for the U.S. Senate in Maine on July 15. Credit: BDN composite photo

This story is informed by BDN’s Citizens Agenda project, in which we asked you, our readers, to share your priorities, concerns and questions for the 2020 election. Read all stories in this project here.

All four candidates in Maine’s high-profile U.S. Senate race will meet in a Sept. 11 debate to be hosted by the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald and News Center Maine that will be televised across the state and streamed online.

The campaigns of fourth-term Republican Sen. Susan Collins, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and independents Max Linn of Bar Harbor and Lisa Savage of Solon said each candidate would attend the debate, the first to be scheduled ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The race between Collins and Gideon in a Democratic-leaning state is a key target for the national parties in their battle for the Senate majority in a presidential election year. Gideon has narrowly led public polls released this year, while Collins has easily won her last three elections.

The 7 p.m. debate will take place at News Center Maine’s Portland studio and will be aired live and moderated by anchor Pat Callaghan. The candidates will appear in person, but there will be no live audience. Candidates and moderators will be spaced apart to follow social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Some subscribers from both newspapers will ask questions while watching the debate on a streaming platform.

BDN readers have been answering questions to inform a “citizen’s agenda” for the November elections, which will lay out the issues you care about most. The focus and questions for the debate will be informed in part by this agenda. If you haven’t yet participated and would like to help shape this debate and reporting on this election, add your voice here.

“In a time of intense media competition, we’re glad to partner with the Press Herald and News Center Maine to host a smart debate for this hugely important Senate race,” Dan MacLeod, the BDN’s managing editor, said. “We’re especially excited to work with our audience to ensure the questions and topics help them make an informed decision in November.”

“This is a critical election, and it’s more important than ever that voters hear directly from the candidates about their positions on important issues,” Dieter Bradbury, a Press Herald deputy managing news editor, said. “We’re pleased to team up with the Bangor Daily News and News Center to host this event.”

It marks the first time in recent history that the two newspapers have collaborated on a candidate debate. News Center Maine, encompassing NBC affiliates WCSH in Portland and WLBZ in Bangor, is the TV partner of the Portland Press Herald and airs across most of Maine.

“We are doing our level best to give Mainers enough clear information to make informed decisions. This Senate debate will be an important part of that,” Mike Redding, the news director for News Center Maine, said. “And teaming up with the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald means no one in this state could possibly miss this opportunity to be informed.”

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...