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Coaxed by Susan Collins, former Maine GOP chair to challenge Angus King

Maine GOP Chair Dr. Demi Kouzounas speaks about efforts to repeal ranked choice voting at a news conference outside the State House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
Maine GOP Chair Dr. Demi Kouzounas speaks about efforts to repeal ranked choice voting at a news conference outside the State House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Former Maine Republican Party chairwoman Demi Kouzounas says she'll challenge independent U.S. Sen. Angus King this year and that she was asked to run by Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

Kouzounas told conservative talk show host Ray Richardson that Collins recently recruited her.

"And we chit-chatted for a little bit and then she (Collins) said, 'OK, now I'm going to ask you something.' And then she put it on the line," Kouzounas told Richardson.

Kouzounas said she decided to run because no other Republican had stepped forward.

"To have a senator go unopposed I think is terrible," she said.

A spokesperson for King said the senator was disappointed that Collins actively recruited his opponent, but that he would continue to work with her as he has since winning his first term.

A spokesperson for Collins said the senator routinely talks to prospective candidates and that, while she won't be making a formal endorsement, she thought it was important that Republicans have a quality candidate in the U.S. Senate race.

Independent Sen. Angus King endorses Republican Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for a fourth term, Friday, May 16, 2014, at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, Maine.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
Independent Sen. Angus King endorses Republican Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for a fourth term, Friday, May 16, 2014, at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, Maine.

King, who caucuses with Democrats, endorsed Collins' reelection in 2014, calling her a "model senator," but he stayed out of her bid for a fifth term in 2020.

Kouzounas headed the Maine GOP for six years before getting removed from that role last year following Republicans' poor showing in legislative, gubernatorial and congressional contests in the 2022 midterms.

King, 79, has not formally declared his candidacy for reelection, but his campaign committee has amassed $2.2 million.

He served two terms as Maine governor, besting Collins, Democratic candidate Joseph Brennan and Green Party candidate Jonathan Carter in 1994.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.