National Democrats rally behind Maine lawmaker Sara Gideon's bid to beat Susan Collins

By Eleanor Watson

/ CBS News

Ex-Clinton campaign manager on Dem. debates

National Democrats are rallying behind Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon in her bid to defeat Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a longtime moderate who angered progressives by voting for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year.

Gideon announced her campaign Monday and released a list of endorsements from 60 Democratic lawmakers and officials. Her campaign video, which received over two million views within 24 hours, criticized Collins for her support for the GOP tax bill, donations from drug companies, and her pivotal vote to place Kavanaugh on the high court.

"Susan Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years. And maybe at some point, she was different than some of the other folks in Washington, but she doesn't seem that way anymore," Gideon says in her Senate campaign launch video.

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Although former gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet is also vying for the nomination, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officially endorsed Gideon Tuesday morning. The DSCC Chair Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement, "Mainers can trust Sara to fight for them, and we look forward to supporting her campaign." EMILY's List, a powerful Democratic group that looks to elect women, also announced that they would back Gideon.

Collins has not faced a competitive race for her seat since she was elected in 1996. She carried every county in Maine during her runs for reelection in 2002, 2008, and 2014.

However, Democrats' recent success makes the state a target for a potential pick-up opportunity. Republicans currently control the Senate by a six seat margin, and with Vice President Pence able to cast the deciding vote whenever there's a tie, Democrats would need to pick up three seats if President Trump loses reelection and four seats if he wins in order to flip control. There are 34 seats up for reelection in 2020, and 22 of them are held by Republicans.

Maine is one of two states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 that have an incumbent Republican senator up for reelection in 2020. In 2016, Clinton carried the vote in Maine by three percentage points.

In 2018, Democratic newcomer Jared Golden won the state's 2nd congressional district, and Democrats won the state legislature for the first time since 2009. This year, the legislature has passed progressive policies such as a paid leave program and two bills expanding access to abortion. Gideon sponsored one of those bills, which will allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives to perform abortions.

Collins' vote to confirm Kavanaugh inspired pro-choice activists who are afraid Kavanaugh will overturn Roe vs. Wade to create a political action committee to unseat her. To date, the activists have raised over $4 million for the candidate Democrats pick to take on Collins.

First published on June 26, 2019 / 4:39 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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