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Politics

GOP Sen. Susan Collins Formally Announces Her Bid For A Fifth Term

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is surrounded by reporters as she heads to vote at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, announced Wednesday that she’s running for a fifth term, ending months of speculation.“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?” Collins wrote in a statement issued early Wednesday morning. “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.”

In Maine, Collins’ reputation as a “centrist” has taken a beating after her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh enraged abortion rights supporters, while other left-leaning voters took issue with her support for steep tax cuts that have increased the deficit.

Since then, Democrats have lined up to face-off against Collins in 2020. They now include former Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, Hallowell lobbyist Betsy Sweet, Saco lawyer Bre Kidman and former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse of Biddeford.

And after her vote on Kavanaugh, critics questioned whether Collins really is a "moderate." But Collins told Maine Public’s Mal Leary that she is one of the few moderates left in the U.S. Senate, and said that’s good for Maine.

“In some ways, as one of my colleagues Lisa Murkowski told me this morning, my role is more important than ever,” she said.

University of Southern Maine political science professor Ron Schmidt says if Collins is worried about her prospects as a self-described moderate in politically divisive times, there’s no indication of it in her announcement message.

“What I thought of when I read her message is that Sen. Collins very much is remaining within the narrative of Sen. Collins that she has crafted over time: that she is a bipartisan senator, that she is a practical representative for the interests of Mainers, that she'll get things done at a time when Congress is having difficulty getting anything done,” Schmidt says.

Meanwhile, Collins' re-election announcement comes on another contentious day in Washington – the same day the U.S. House is expected to vote on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, potentially sparking a proceeding in the U.S. Senate, where Collins, who has refused to reveal her position on the issue, will have to cast votes that could affect her political prospects.

University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer says when Collins’ announcement popped up on his phone Wednesday, he wasn’t surprised.

“But the second thing I thought was, 'I wonder why she chose today?' And I don't know the answer to that. And I really don't even have any good speculation on it, to be honest with you,” he says.

Collins is also facing what’s shaping up to be one of the most expensive races in Maine’s history. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Collins raised more than $8.5 million for her re-election effort through Sept. 30, while her most well-funded Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, has raised more than $4.2 million.

Collins was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, and Maine voters decisively re-elected her three more times: in 2002, 2008 and 2014. But in 2016, the state’s electoral votes were split between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, ushering in a more divisive, partisan political climate.

The outcome of Collins’ re-election bid could have national implications, with fierce battles for U.S. Senate seats being waged across the country. Republicans now hold the majority in the Senate.
   
Mal Leary and Willis Ryder Arnold contributed to this story.

Originally published Dec. 18, 2019 at 2:45 p.m. ET.