Susan Collins announces re-election bid hours before Trump impeachment vote

Collins to face her hardest re-election bid yet as she seeks a fifth term after her pivotal vote on Brett Kavanaugh

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published December 18, 2019 12:48PM (EST)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Getty/Alex Wong)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Getty/Alex Wong)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced that she will run for a fifth term next year hours before the House of Representatives was set to vote on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Collins announced her re-election bid in an email to supporters Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

“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?” the email asked. “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.”

Collins made the announcement ahead of the House vote on Trump’s impeachment. Though she acknowledged divisions in Washington, Collins, who has not yet revealed how she plans to vote in the expected Senate trial, did not mention impeachment in her statement.

“To say that these are difficult and contentious times is most certainly an understatement,” she said. "But our country has confronted much more challenging times in our history."

Collins has criticized Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., for his public dispute with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over whether the Senate trial will have witnesses. At the same time, she has distanced herself from McConnell’s comment that he will coordinate the trial with the White House.

“Every senator has to decide on his or her own how to approach it,” she told The Washington Post this week. "That would not be the approach that I’ve taken."

Collins voted to acquit former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial.

Though she has broken with Trump on numerous issues, Collins has also been criticized on the left for expressing concern about the president’s statements and actions before ultimately backing them. Such was the case when she voted to confirm Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, prompting fierce backlash.

While Collins has amassed an $8.6 million campaign war chest, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat running for her seat, outraised Collins by $1 million in the last quarter. Three other Democrats — activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman and former Google executive Ross LaJeaunesse — are also running in the primary contest for the Democratic nomination.

Whomever wins the primary will also benefit from a crowdfunding effort launched in response to Collins' vote to confirm Kavanaugh. That campaign has already raised nearly $4 million, which will go to the primary winner.

Gideon told the AP that Collins “might have been different from other people” when she first arrived in Washington, but “it doesn’t seem that way anymore.”

“These days, Senator Collins seems more focused on serving the special interests that fund her campaigns than the Mainers who elected her,” she told the outlet.

The race is also expected to draw a massive amount of outside money. Dark-money groups are expected spend upwards of $80 million to $100 million on the race, according to the AP.

Recent polling showed that Collins is the most unpopular senator in the country outside of McConnell. Her political future could be decided by how she handles the Senate impeachment trial.

Asked whether she would support allowing witnesses at the trial, which McConnell opposes, Collins told The Post that she is “not going to reach a judgment . . . until I see what the two leaders come up with for a suggestion.”

But Collins had a different outlook during Clinton’s impeachment trial.

“I am willing to travel the road wherever it leads, whether it’s to the conviction or the acquittal of the president,” Collins said in 1999. “But, in order to do that, I need more evidence. I need witnesses and further evidence to guide me to the right destination to get to the truth.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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