Maine Senator Collins to Seek Re-Election in 2020

(CN) — Continuing to position herself as a centrist on a day that the House is expected to impeach President Donald Trump, Maine Senator Susan Collins announced Monday she will run for a fifth term in 2020.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is surrounded by reporters as she heads to vote at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 6, 2019. Collins officially launched her bid for a re-election Wednesday, setting up an expensive and closely watched battle for the seat the moderate Republican from Maine has held for nearly 24 years. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

“I promised the people of Maine a decision this fall whether I would seek re-election,” Collins said this morning in an email to supporters. “The fundamental question I had to ask myself in making my decision was this: in today’s polarized political environment, is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship? I have concluded that the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ and I will, therefore, seek the honor of continuing to serve as Maine’s United States senator.”

Collins first won her Senate seat in 1996 with 49% of the vote in a four-way race. That share has risen steadily in subsequent elections, from 58% in 2002 against a Democratic state senator to 68% at her last election in 2014.

Having long cultivated a reputation for independence, Collins is likely to be scrutinized on the basis of whether she votes to remove Trump from office should the House continue on track to impeach him this evening.

Collins says she didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. Neither did a majority of Maine voters: The state split 47%-44% in favor of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In 1999, Collins voted against convicting President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice, joining a small group of Republicans who sided with Democrats in defending the president.

In 2017, Collins became one of three GOP senators to oppose a repeal of former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. The measure failed by a single vote.

Collins is continuing to position herself as a moderate alternative in increasingly polarized politics.

“To say that these are difficult and contentious times is most certainly an understatement,” Collins wrote. “But our country has confronted much more challenging times in our history. Seventy-five years ago this week, U.S. forces were engaged in one of the most consequential battles of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. American soldiers — including my father — courageously fought back, ensuring victory for the allies.”

Maine People’s Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership and Be a Hero joined forces in 2017 to organize a fundraising campaign on CrowdPAC.com to support whichever Democrat challenges Collins in 2020.

The campaign was started in response to Collins’ vote to confirm Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump nominee who faced sexual assault allegations from those who knew him in his student years. Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed 50-48.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the campaign had raised $3.8 million.

Collins meanwhile told the Federal Election Commission in her last report, dated Sept. 30, that she had $7.1 million cash in her war chest.

Maine’s Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon, who is seeking the nomination to challenge Collins, has $2.7 million in cash on hand after raising a total of $4.2 million since she announced over the summer. There are other Democratic contenders, but none have raised more than $200,000.

Gideon responded to Collins’ announcement by launching her campaign website and issuing a statement on Twitter.

“These days, Senator Collins seems more focused on serving special interests than the Mainers who elected her,” Gideon wrote. “We deserve to have someone fighting for Maine families in the Senate. That’s who I’ll always put first.”

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