Maine House Speaker to Challenge GOP Senator Susan Collins

Steven T. Dennis

(Bloomberg) -- Maine Senator Susan Collins is getting another challenge to her re-election next year, as state Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon entered the race by highlighting the Republican incumbent’s votes for President Donald Trump’s agenda and nominees.

Gideon opened her campaign Monday with a video attacking Collins for backing Trump’s tax-cut law, for her pivotal vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and for fundraising from corporate interests and allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“At one point, maybe she was different than some of the other folks in Washington, but she doesn’t seem that way any more,” Gideon said.

Collins, 66, is serving her fourth Senate term.

Democratic-aligned groups have raised millions for Collins’s eventual challenger. While Collins provided a key vote in 2017 to defeat Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, since then she has come under fire from Democrats for backing most of Trump’s nominees and other parts of his legislative agenda.

The polling company Morning Consult reported Collins had a 52% approval rating in Maine in the first quarter -- easily the highest of any Republican running for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. But that’s a drop from her 65% approval rating for the second quarter of 2017.

Betsy Sweet, a former gubernatorial candidate, is also running for the Democratic Senate nomination on a progressive agenda including Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Conservative blogger Derek Levasseur is challenging Collins for the GOP nomination.

Kevin Kelley, a campaign spokesman for Collins, touted her four terms of seniority as the most in 70 years for a Maine senator.

“The Democrats have a year-long competitive primary ahead -- they will not be picking a nominee until June of 2020," he said in a statement.

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