Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) drew a high-profile Democratic challenger Monday, as Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon announced her candidacy with a video that sought to undermine Collins’s carefully tended moderate image.
“Susan Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years,” Gideon says in the video. “And at one point, maybe she was different than some of the other folks in Washington, but she doesn’t seem that way any more.”
As Democrats seek to take back the Senate next year, Collins has become an inviting target in the wake of her votes for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and his tax bill. In her video, Gideon, who was encouraged to run by national Democrats, highlights both of those issues and includes footage of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praising Collins for her actions.
Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins’s campaign, noted that Democrats “have a year-long competitive primary ahead” and “will not be picking a nominee until June of 2020.” He made no specific mention of Gideon, but instead touted Collins’s clout in the Senate.
“One of the reasons why Senator Collins has been so effective is that she has more seniority than any U.S. Senator from Maine over the past 70 years,” Kelley said. “She will continue to build on her record of extraordinary accomplishments for the people of Maine.”
Gideon, 47, teased a possible Senate run in October after Collins, 66, voted to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite allegations of sexual misconduct in the 1980s and concerns about his views on abortion.
In her video, Gideon says that Collins’s support for Kavanaugh “may be paying off for her, but it’s put women’s control over their own health-care decisions in extreme jeopardy.”
Collins most recently won reelection in 2014 with more than 68 percent of the vote in the general election.
Maine, however, is one of two states with Senate races next year that was carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, putting it high on the target list for Democrats as they try to gain control of the chamber. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 advantage.
Gideon must first prevail in a Democratic primary before taking on Collins. Two lesser-known candidates have announced bids: Betsy Sweet, a liberal activist who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year; and Bre Kidman, a lawyer.
Gideon’s focus in the Maine legislature has included job training, health care and tackling the state’s opioid crisis.
In her video, she casts herself as a politician who can work with others to get things done.
“Together we’ll make sure we have a senator who’s putting Maine first,” she says.