Mainers have called, emailed and even penned hand-written letters to their Republican Senator Susan Collins in order to express concern about how she will vote on the nomination of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
"It is pretty demoralizing to know that your elected representative is ignoring you," one Maine resident says in a now viral video begging the Collins to vote "no" on Kavanaugh. "As a Mainer who has a pre-existing condition, if you vote 'yes' on Kavanaugh, you're voting to kill me," another says.
Collins is one of two moderate Republicans in the narrowly-divided U.S. Senate. In order for Kavanaugh not to be confirmed to the high court, both women, Collins and Senator Lisa Murkoski of Alaska, would have to vote against him. Neither has announced how they plan to vote on his nomination and pressure from their home states is mounting.
"For liberals concerned about what a seat for Kavanaugh would do to the court, Collins has been both a source of limited hope and frustration, expressing concerns about threats to Roe vs. Wade, while consulting with the Trump administration through the selection process," The Washington Post's Eli Rosenberg elaborated.
In an effort to beg the Maine senator to vote against Kavanaugh, who was recently accused of sexual misconduct, a group of liberal activists in Maine launched a unique crowdfunding campaign. The fundraising effort, which was started by Maine People's Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership on the platform Crowdpac, raises money in the form of pledges: If Collins votes to confirm Kavanaugh, money will be withdrawn from donors to fund whoever decides to challenge her in 2020. If she votes no, donors will not be charged.
"Senator Collins votes 'no' on Kavanaugh and you will not be charged, and no money will go to fund her future opponent," the platform notes. "Senator Collins votes 'yes' on Kavanaugh, and your pledge will go to her opponent's campaign, once that opponent has been identified."
As of Monday, the groups had raised nearly $1.5 million from 48,000 pledges — a significant sum for a political race in a small state. As the campaign went viral, Collins' team accused her constituents and people who voted for her re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2014 of bribery.
"Anybody who thinks these tactics would work on Senator Collins obviously doesn't know her," Annie Clark, the senator's communications director, said in a statement to The Post. "Senator Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination. Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision making whatsoever."
Marie Follayttar Smith, an on-the-ground organizer, told Salon in an interview Monday that Collins' complaints of "attempted bribery" and bullying does not indicate that the campaign is backfiring.
"We are continuing with the Crowdpac," Follayttar Smith said. "It's indicative of how engaged Mainers and people across the country are in this process and in the power of small donor pledges. We have to and cannot stop until his confirmation is either defeated or withdrawn."
"People on the ground are pretty optimistic about the Crowdpac," she added. "It's been a sign of hope for people — knowing that if she does the wrong thing and turns her back on Maine constituents and Maine women who have been speaking out that a candidate we'll have."
In addition to the crowdfunding campaign, the groups have delivered a thousand handwritten notes to Collins office; sent a letter from more than 230 Maine lawyers calling on Maine's senators to oppose Kavanaugh; and published a letter-to-the-editor in The Press Herald, a daily newspaper in Maine.
"This is a game changer, and certainly connected with people who were demoralized and now are a little bit reinvigorated from the chance of having a representative who truly represents Mainers," Follayttar Smith said. "Senator Collins can choose to lead by her conscious and lead for her people that she represents or not. For many, this is her final chance of being Margaret Chase Smith." (Margaret Chase Smith was a U.S. Senator from Maine. She was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.)
Mainers are continuing to mobilize. On Thursday, Mainers be converging on Capitol Hill to protest Kavanaugh's nomination. They will be joined by progressive organizations, including the Women's March and Be A Hero.