Susan Collins' top Democratic rival outraised her by nearly 300% in the first quarter

Democrat Sara Gideon raised more than $7 million in three months, nearly doubling her total from all of last year

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published April 17, 2020 11:57AM (EDT)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was outraised by almost 300% in the first quarter by Democratic challenger Sara Gideon, who set a new state fundraising record with a massive haul.

Gideon, the state speaker of the House, raised $7.1 million in the first three months of the year, or nearly the entire total she raised during all of last year, according to the Associated Press. Gideon has now raised a state-record $14.8 million since launching her campaign. That does not even include the crowdfunding campaign launched after Collins' vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which has raised more than $4.1 million for her yet to be named Democratic opponent.

Collins, a four-term incumbent, raised just $2.4 million over the same time period, bringing her total to $13.2 million. Collins has been more frugal with her spending, however, with $5.6 million in cash still on hand, while Gideon has about $4.6 million.

The race is already the most expensive in state history, with much of the cash coming from out of state, according to the Bangor Daily News. Both candidates have largely been forced off the campaign trail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Senator Collins is solely focused on the health of the people of Maine and our country and the well-being of our economy," Collins campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley told the AP. "Our campaign will have the funds it needs."

But Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine, warned that Collins was "in the re-election fight of her life."

"She's never run a race like this as a sitting U.S. senator," he said.

Gideon is the leading candidate heading into the state's Democratic primary and has already earned the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The primary, which was originally scheduled in June, was postponed until July due to the coronavirus crisis.

Collins' collapse in popularity comes as voters sour over her enabling of President Donald Trump. Collins has occasionally expressed "concerns" over Trump's behavior and actions but has rarely pushed back hard. That trend was on full display when Collins was asked this week about the president's performance in the White House coronavirus briefings, in which he often contradicts top health experts and picks fights with reporters.

"It's been very uneven. There are times when I think his message has been spot on and he has really deferred to the public health officials who have been with him at these press conferences," she told Politico. "And then there are times when, I think, he's been off message and has brought up extraneous issues. So I think it's been mixed."

Collins also voted to acquit Trump in his Senate impeachment trial after arguing that he had learned a "big lesson" from the experience and supported the confirmation of Kavanaugh after insisting that he would protect the precedent of Roe v. Wade. His confirmation was followed by a number of states imposing new abortion restrictions in hopes that the Kavanaugh court would contradict past Supreme Court rulings striking down abortion restrictions.

A recent poll found that just 37% of Maine voters approve of Collins' job performance. She was ranked as the most unpopular senator in the country earlier this year.

Despite winning her previous reelection race by more than 35%, Collins narrowly trails Gideon in two recent polls. The University of Virginia's Center for Politics recently moved the race from "lean Republican" to "toss-up."

"We've resisted this change for a while," the organization said in a report, "but it's become apparent to us that Collins is in for a very close race."

By Igor Derysh

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

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Aggregate Elections Elections 2020 Maine Politics Republicans Sara Gideon Susan Collins