As the controversy around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh roils Washington, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine faces intense pressure at home.
Collins is among a handful of Senate Republicans who could decide whether Kavanaugh gets a lifetime seat on the court. And that’s fueling a wave of protests and sit-ins and an ad blitz by liberal activists who hope to convince her to vote no. The pressure campaign reached a crescendo this week after a woman accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the ’80s.
Protests at Collins’ constituent offices have been frequent ever since Donald Trump became president last year. But the women chanting outside of her office on Thursday revealed how some have changed their efforts to persuade a politician whose long political career is built on her reputation as a moderate.
Before there was hope that Collins, who identifies as pro-choice, would oppose Kavanaugh, who these activists view as as a threat to abortion rights. Now there’s growing belief among people like Gail Foss that Collins will join other Republican senators and vote to confirm him.
“I am so furious at our senator. I miss rational Republicans,” she says.
The anger directed at Collins has been building for weeks, and so has a crowdfunding effort that’s using small-dollar donations to illustrate the electoral consequences she’ll face if she seeks another six-year term in 2020. The so-called Be a Hero Campaign vows to fund Collins’ re-election opponent if she votes yes on Kavanaugh.
If she votes no, the campaign will refund the money.
It’s raised nearly $1.5 million so far, with over 50,000 contributors.
“That, to me, has all the earmarks of an attempt to bribe me. I just think that is unethical and appalling,” Collins recently told Maine Public Radio.
She says the fundraising campaign is disgusting and possibly illegal. She also says several people calling her office have used vulgar and threatening language — a complaint that has prompted some to accuse her of using a few nasty calls to tarnish everyone who wants her to vote against Kavanaugh.
“The level of debate on this nominee has truly sunk to new lows,” Collins says.
All of that was before the pending confirmation vote was rocked with allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school during the early ’80s. The accusations reinvigorated the pressure campaign, sparking ads like one from Demand Justice, a dark money group that advocates for liberal judges on the Supreme Court.
“When 15-year-old Christine tried to scream her attacker covered her mouth so no one could hear her. Will Susan Collins listen to her now?” the ad says.
Collins says Ford and Kavanaugh should both testify under oath at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing next week. Collins says she remains undecided and says constituents’ views are welcome — even if the ad campaigns and fundraising effort are not.
“I think the people of Maine know me well enough that that’s not how I would ever make a decision,” she says.
Some view Collins’ critical comments about the timing of the Kavanaugh allegations as a sign that she’s inclined to put him on the country’s highest court. But until Collins announces her decision, the effort to get her to vote no is certain to continue.
Originally published Sept. 21, 2018 at 5:11 p.m. ET.