Collins Averts Party Primary in Maine

Photograph by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks with reporters as she arrives for the Senate Republicans’ policy lunch in the Capitol on Jan. 14, 2014.

The list of Republican senators facing primary challenges won’t include Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, even though she probably bucks the party line more than any other senator in her party.

No Republican filed to oppose Collins in the June 10 primary before yesterday’s filing deadline, according to a candidate list posted by the state elections office.

Erick Bennett, a political activist, planned to oppose Collins in the primary, though the Portland Press-Herald reported that he “decided to leave the Republican Party after a group of moderate Republicans proposed Medicaid expansion and some conservative state Republicans started advocating for the uninsured to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.”

It’s a testament to Collins’s political skills that she’s been so dominant in Maine, a Democratic-voting state in presidential contests, while also avoiding intraparty opposition.

Collins, who’s seeking a fourth term, was unopposed in the 2008 Republican primary before trouncing 12-year Democratic Rep. Tom Allen by about 23 percentage points in the general election, even as President Barack Obama was carrying the state by more than 17 points as the Democratic presidential nominee.

The Club for Growth, a limited-government group, gave Collins a score of 39 out of a possible 100 for her votes in 2013, the lowest among Republicans. Her career score of 37 is more than 15 points lower than the next-lowest-scoring Republican senator.

Republican senators facing primary challenges include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Collins is the only Republican senator up for re-election this year from a state that voted Democratic for president in 2012, underscoring how the 36-race Senate map is much more favorable to Republicans than Democrats. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to overturn the Democrats’ 55-45 majority, and they’ve put more Democratic-held Senate seats in play with candidacy announcements in Colorado and New Hampshire within the past few weeks.

Collins’s Democratic opponent will be Shenna Bellows, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Maine. Nonpartisan political analysts, including the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report, currently rate Collins as a safe bet to win re-election.

Three Democrats and two Republicans are seeking the mostly rural and mildly Democratic 2nd District that Rep. Mike Michaud is leaving open to challenge Republican Gov. Paul LePage. (Click here for an Excel list of Maine candidates in the June 10 primary.)

In the 1st District, a more compact and Democratic district encompassing Portland and the state capital of Augusta, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree is favored to win a fourth term. A decade ago, Pingree ran against Collins and lost by 17 points.



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