In an interview with WGAN radio, Maine Senator Susan Collins stated that she is considering running for Governor of Maine in 2018. “If I were fortunate enough to be elected…you can work on issues I care a lot about like economic development, jobs, education. And I would try to heal the state and bring people back together, which I think is important as well. So I’m trying to figure out where I can do the most good,” she said in the interview. She later clarified her position in an email to the Portland Press Herald, saying that she wouldn’t be making a final decision about the race until this fall.
She would be the first female governor of Maine.
Collins, born and raised in Caribou, Maine, has served in the US Senate for twenty years. She is currently the Chair of the Senate Aging Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. She was recently ranked as the 6th most popular US Senator and has a 67 percent approval rate. Collins is consistently ranked the most bipartisan senator in Congress, something that is becoming rare in an increasingly polarized political sphere. Although her role as a moderate republican has gained significant traction in the media since Trump’s election, she has always occupied this position, working on bipartisan projects and regularly reaching across the aisle.
Collins has already run for governor; she ran against Independent Angus King, currently serving alongside her in the Senate, in 1994. She finished in third place, after King and Democrat Joe Brennan, with 23 percent of the vote. Collins has proven herself to be popular across the state, winning her re-election in 2014 with 68 percent of the vote and winning all sixteen counties.
Governor Paul LePage, an avid Trump supporter—who has said that he was “Donald trump before Donald Trump became popular”—told WGAN radio that “Susan Collins is done in Maine. I think her decision to go against the Maine Republicans really cooked her goose.”
If Senator Collins did choose to run for governor, she would be abandoning the unique niche she has carved for herself in her 20 years as a senator. Collins supports a woman’s right to abortions and has voted to expand background checks for guns, supported Merrick Garland, and very publically refused to vote for Trump. In an opinions piece for the Washington Post, Collins wrote, “Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country. “She was one of two Republicans to vote against Betsy DeVos, and the only republican to vote against Scott Pruitt for the head of the EPA.
However, it would leave LePage able to appoint someone to serve in her seat for the remaining two years. Maine Democrats are in the process of introducing LD 850, a bill that would require the Governor to hold a special primary election and a special general election to fill a vacant Senate Seat. However, the bill is not projected to get past the state senate.
The 2018 gubernatorial election has attracted many other prospective candidates. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Sanford lawyer Adam Cote, and car dealership chairman Adam Lee are all Democrats who have confirmed that they are strongly considering a run, along with Mark Eves, former Speaker of the House and Justin Alfond, a former state legislator and grandson of Harold Alfond. Several Republicans are also considering a run, looking to keep the Governor’s office red for a third consecutive term. Rick Bennett, a former legislator, Bruce Poliquin, the US Congressman from Maine’s 2nd district, Senate majority leader Garrett Mason, and Mary Mayhew, LePage’s health and human services coordinator, have all acknowledged their interest, along with several other Republicans. However, if Senator Collins confirmed her decision to run, her strength across the state could thin the field in both parties.
Collins’ spokeswoman, Annie Clark, told the Portland Press Herald in response to LePage’s comments that Collins’ “goose not only hasn’t been cooked, it hasn’t even been plucked yet. In fact, her goose is alive and healthy and looking forward to many more years of service to Maine.” Only time will tell if these years of service will be from the Governor’s mansion, the Blaine House.