Maine Democrat Sara Gideon—She Aims to Defeat GOP Senator Susan “Kavanaugh” Collins July 7, 2019
The U.S. Senate. It has been called many names by many people— the upper chamber of Congress, the world’s most deliberative body, the saucer that cools down the hot opinions coming from the House. We now have a new name to call this body, the “graveyard,” led by the Grim Reaper. And who gave the Senate this ghoulish name? Why none other than its present Majority Leader, KY GOPer Mitch McConnell. He called the Senate the “graveyard” for progressive policies. Speaking to community leaders in Owensboro, KY, on 4/22/2019, he defiantly added, “If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate (after 2020) think of me as the ‘Grim Reaper.’ None of that stuff (progressive legislation) is going to pass (“The Hill,” Carney, 4/22/19).” McConnell has even started selling Grim Reaper T-Shirts for $35 to help his re-election campaign. On this shirt, is a tombstone with the word “Socialism,” the term he falsely and deliberately tars all Democrats and their progressive legislation with. In his ads for this shirt, McConnell again states that he is proud to be the “Grim Reaper.” He encourages people to buy this shirt that Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Speaker, hates. On the back of this shirt, he calls himself the head of “Team Mitch (teammitch.com/store/).” Exactly. The current U.S. GOP-controlled Senate is Grim Reaper/Team Mitch’s loyal gang. Presently, Grim Reaper Mitch’s “Team Red” holds a 53-47 advantage in this chamber. In order to recapture the Senate, Democrats need to win a net of at least three seats in 2020, should they win the Presidency. One GOP Senator up for re-election in 11/2020 is Maine’s Susan Collins. Collins (66) is running for her 5th term and is a key Democratic target. On 6/24/2019, “Team Blue” landed a top tier candidate to challenge her, Sara Gideon (nytimes.com, Saul, 6/24/19). Let’s focus on this race.
Caribou, ME native GOP Sen. Susan Collins comes from a family long involved in ME politics. Her father was a state senator, her mother served as mayor, and her uncle was a state Supreme Court Justice (Barone &CQ 14 Political Almanacs). After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 1975, Collins interned for then moderate ME GOP Cong. Bill Cohen who later won election to the U.S. Senate. Collins stayed on his staff for 12 years, till 1987. When the Democrats retook the Senate majority in 1987, Collins returned to ME and worked for the GOP governor as financial regulation commissioner. In 1992, she became New England administrator of the Small Business Administration. In 1994, she won the GOP nomination for Gov. of ME, but finished third behind the Democratic nominee and Independent Angus King, now ME’s junior Senator. In 1996, Collins ran for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring GOPer Cohen and won by 5 points. In 2002, Collins won re-election, clobbering her opponent, now Dem. Rep. Chellie Pingree, by a 16.8% margin. In 2008 and 2014, Collins handily won re-election by 23% and 36.8% respectively (U.S. Senate Election in ME).
Collins calls herself a “moderate Republican.” “Moderate” by GOP standards only, in that 1890’s reactionary party. According to Crowdpac, a group that bases its ratings on donations she receives and gives, Sen. Collins has a liberal view on abortion, election law, and gender equality, but a conservative viewpoint on every other major issue (crowdpac.com). In 2013, the National Journal gave her a 55% conservative v. 45% liberal score, not a hard-core Southern/Rocky Mountain GOP rating but not near most Democrats (worldcat.org). She helped water down Obama’s key stimulus bill which hindered a faster economic recovery. She weakened the Wall Street Reform Dodd- Frank Bill. She voted against Obamacare, despite Obama’s constant wooing of her. Yes, in the summer of 2017, she voted against repealing Obamacare. In 12/2017, she voted for the top 1% tax cut. In that tax cut legislation, Collins voted to repeal the health care reform individual mandate provision. She has proposed legislation allowing states to move to an Obamacare replacement program (Reuters, 1/23/17).
Sen. Collins stated she would not vote for Demagogue Donald in 2016 (Wash. Post, 8/08/16). However, “moderate” (LOL) Collins, as of 5/2019, has voted with Trump’s positions 72% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com, Bycoffe). And she had voted with her hard-right party with much greater frequency since Trump took over. In 2017, she voted 87% of the time with her party, significantly closer to the average GOP Senator’s 96% score on party-line votes. Collins, as already noted, voted for the top 1% regressive tax plan as well as for right-wing Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court (Enten, cnn.com, 11/11/18). Collins makes no bones about being a “lifelong” Republican. She supported Donald’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey who was then looking at Trump’s Russian connections during the 2016 campaign (Wash. Post, 8/08/16, “The Hill,” Swanson, 5/09/17).
Collins proclaims that she is “pro-choice.” Words remain cheap, as opposed to actions. By 6/2019, Collins had supported more than 90% of Donald’s judicial nominees, 32 of whom had indicated that they opposed abortion rights (yahoo.com, huffingtonpost.com).
Until recently, Collins’ conservative record escaped scrutiny by Mainers. ME voters repeatedly heard of Collins’ pro-choice stance. They also heard her constant comments on television that she was “upset” or “agitated” over extreme GOP statements or some of her fellow party members’ votes. Her vote for the top 1% tax cut started to stir up opposition from some Maine constituents. Collins’ popularity took one big down-turn when she went out of her way to make a well-publicized/grandstanding speech on the Senate floor in 2018. She then declared she would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. She decided to give him “the benefit of the doubt” despite the credible allegations of attempted sexual assault Christine Blasey Ford made against Kavanaugh at his Senate confirmation hearing. With AK Sen. Lisa Murkowski voting “No,” Collins’ “Yes” vote on Kavanaugh influenced Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) to cast a “YEA” vote. Collins’ decision to support Kavanaugh made her, in effect, the lawmaker who actually put him on the High Court. Within hours of her Kavanaugh decision, a fund run by a committee called Crowdpac was created that raised millions in just over a week for Collins’ future Democratic opponent (See alternet.com). This fund already has over $4 million in it for Collins’ Democratic challenger (nytimes.com, Saul).
Because of her Kavanaugh vote, Collins’ approval rating has dropped 17 points since last spring. She now has a 41% approval rating v. a 42% disapproval rating. She has never been politically underwater before. She gets just a 46% approval from GOPers and an awful 31% score from Democrats, without whom she can’t win (See docs.wixstatic.com, Critical Insights). ME, remember, voted for Hillary. It now has a progressive Democratic Governor, Janet Mills, and both state legislative chambers are under Democratic control, a trifecta. Its two congressional seats are in “Team Blue’s” hands and Independent Senator Angus King caucuses with the Democrats. Donald has a 34% approval to 58% ME disapproval rating (CQ 116th Cong., Kos, McCarter). And Kavanaugh, whom Collins believes, from private friendly chats with him, will not overturn Roe v. Wade, shows little respect for precedent. As my previous blogpost discussed, in just about all his opinions this term, Kavanaugh has not emphasized previous decisions and has generally voted with the conservative bloc.
Collins’ Democratic opponent, will probably be Sara Gideon. Sara Gideon (47) is currently serving her second term as Speaker of ME’s House of Representatives and her fourth term in that body (nytimes.com, Saul, 6/24/19, speakergideon.com/about/). A graduate of D.C.’s George Washington University, prior to entering politics, she was an advertising executive for a national newspaper. Her father, a pediatrician, was an immigrant from India. Her mother is a second-generation American whose parents escaped the Armenian genocide. Gideon is married and the mother of three children (speakergideon.com/about/).
Gideon is from Freeport, ME and represents Freeport and the town of Pownal. Gideon sponsored legislation that was signed into law this year that will expand abortion access by permitting health care professionals who are not doctors to perform this procedure. She is behind an effort to expand benefits to families in poverty (Saul, nytimes.com, 6/24/19). Gideon’s key priority is building a strong economy for all Mainers. She is a proponent of education, innovation, and entrepreneurship. She has pushed for promoting renewable energy resources and building a clean-energy economy. She is for high energy internet access and has worked across the aisle to combat the drug crisis threatening ME families (speakergideon.com/about/). Gideon is for increasing access to universal health care and in 2019, Gideon oversaw the passage of automatic voter registration. The day after she formally announced her run for the Senate, Gideon received the endorsements of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and NARAL, a pro-choice group. EMILY’s List, a political action committee that backs Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, also endorsed Gideon in her attempt to unseat Collins. Over 60 former and current ME officials, including state attorney general Aaron Frey and former ME House Speaker Hannah Pingree are also in Gideon’s camp (huffpost.com, Miller, H., 6/25/19 & 6/25/19, nytimes.com, Saul, 6/24/19). Gideon will face a 6/2020 Democratic primary against at least two lesser known opponents (See nytimes.com, Saul, 6/24/19).
In announcing her run for the Senate, Gideon said, “At one point, maybe she (Collins) was different from some of the other folks in Washington. But she doesn’t seem that way anymore.” Gideon shows a picture of Trump thanking Collins for her tax cut vote. Gideon attacks Collins for the huge contributions that drug companies and the insurance industry have given her. She also has a clip of Senate Majority Leader McConnell smirking, “Senator Collins will be well funded, I can assure you.” In this ad, Gideon emphasizes how after Collins voted for Kavanaugh she received oodles in GOP campaign contributions. Gideon added, that that vote “may be paying off for her, but it’s put women’s control over their own health care decisions in extreme jeopardy (twitter.com/SaraGideonME/status).”
True, Collins’ ratings are starting to go underwater in ME, but she still has a “y uu ge” incumbent recognition factor and many people still back her. She can start voting “moderately” close to election time to please many ME voters. In the latest session of Congress, Collins has only voted with Donald 29% of the time, obviously, a “re-election conversion (See Kos, Witgren, 7/07/19).” In former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid’s words, “She’s (Collins’) always there when you don’t need her vote.” When Kavanaugh’s High Court confirmation and Barr’s confirmation as Attorney General were on the line, Collins was a GOP “YEA.” Collins will be challenged in the GOP primary by conservative blogger Derek Levasseur, but she should easily win (See nytimes.com, Saul, 6/24/19).
Because of her pro-Kavanaugh vote, Collins has already raised $4 million dollars. GOPers, as well as Democrats, know that control of the Senate may hinge on who wins this ME seat. Gideon is rightly linking Collins to her nationally unpopular boss, Majority Leader McConnell, who has a 26% favorable v. 50% unfavorable rating among swing voters. In counties that went from Obama to Trump, Mitch “Grim Reaper” McConnell has a 25%-53% approval/disapproval rating (huffingpost.com, Robillard, 6/25/19). Gideon must be supported in the primary and general election with money and high Democratic turnout. The Senate must not be viewed as a legislative graveyard. In 11/2020, “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell must lose his scythe-like grip on Senatorial power.