Trump-skeptic Republican Susan Collins Keeps Senate Seat in Setback for Dems

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Sen. Susan Collins speaking during a COVID-19 hearing on Capitol Hill, September 25, 2020.
Sen. Susan Collins speaking during a COVID-19 hearing on Capitol Hill, September 25, 2020.Credit: POOL/REUTERS

Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins fought off a fierce challenge to her fourth term, declaring a reelection victory Wednesday and all but destroying Democratic hopes for achieving a Senate majority. 

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Collins told the media that she had “received a very gracious call” from her rival, Sara Gideon, the Democratic Maine House of Representatives speaker, who conceded the race as final vote counts had her trailing Collins 51-42 percent. 

When 75 percent of the vote had been counted, the Senate race was called by the Associated Press for Collins, following a campaign during which the senior senator trailed Gideon in polls. Even with Maine’s unusual system of ranked-choice voting allowing voters for third-party candidate Lisa Savage to throw their support to Gideon as their second choice, the gap could not be closed. 

As a moderate Republican who preaches bipartisan cooperation, Collins faced a serious threat in the 2020 race running in a state where President Donald Trump is not popular, and which gave its electoral votes to former Vice President Joe Biden.

In an attempt to distance herself from Trump, Collins was the only U.S. Senate candidate who refused to endorse him, or any candidate, for president.

But Collins still faced the wrath of Maine voters – and Democratic donors – when she chose to vote with the Republican majority in favor of Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2018, and sympathized with the then-nominee’s “anger and anguish” at being accused of sexual misconduct. 

The Kavanaugh controversy, along with Collins’ decision to stand with her party at key junctures, such as the vote to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, saw the senator, who had been a popular figure throughout her 23 years in office and won races by wide margins in the past, struggling for the first time. 

Collins is considered a strong supporter of Israel, cosponsoring both the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the Combating BDS Act in 2017, and her campaign was heavily supported by pro-Israel PACs and individual donors.

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