In Sen. Susan Collins' announcement Wednesday that she will run for a fifth Senate term in 2020, the Republican attempted to portray herself, as she has for decades, as a badly-needed moderating voice on Capitol Hill—but her constituents in Maine and critics across the country expressed their intent to defeat her, signaling that during the Trump administration, Collins has made clearer than ever that her so-called centrism has been disastrous for the judiciary and democracy.
The senator wrote in a letter to supporters that she had asked herself, "Is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship?" and had concluded, "The answer to this question is 'yes.'"
Collins' votes in favor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation after he was accused by multiple women of sexual assault; the Republican tax plan which will give $78 billion in tax cuts to the richest 1% of Americans in 2020 while failing to benefit most working families; and dozens of anti-choice judges after positioning herself for years as a pro-choice Republican, all helped to confirm for critics that Collins "is no centrist and she has no business being in the Senate," as one reproductive rights advocate tweeted.
Susan Collins not only voted for Brett Kavanaugh, an avowed abortion opponent who was credibly accused by multiple women of sexual assault, but she excoriated those who opposed his nomination as fanatics. She is no centrist and she has no business being in the Senate. https://t.co/HVklu34mjo
— Lauren Rankin (@laurenarankin) December 18, 2019
When announcing her support for Kavanaugh after Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Kavanaugh and a brief FBI investigation into the accusation, Collins attacked the anti-Kavanaugh campaign as being funded by an "unprecedented amount of dark money," in reference to the millions of dollars that Mainers for Accountable Leadership (MFAL), Maine People's Alliance, and the Be A Hero campaign have raised in small donations for the senator's eventual opponent.
The accusation came after thousands of Maine voters called, wrote to, and visited the offices of the senator to share their own stories of surviving assaults and demand that she vote against Kavanaugh.
"She dismissed everyday activists as being manipulated by dark money," Marie Follayttar of MFAL told Common Dreams. "That was a final level of condescension towards what really was a beautiful activation of the Maine people... Whether or not she agrees, as a U.S. senator on the frontlines of democracy, [she] should appreciate when a population is seeking to discuss an issue that they're concerned about with her. That is her job after all."
Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America also condemned Collins' Kavanaugh vote and wrote, "We're ready to defeat her."
Susan Collins—who wasn’t satisfied to betray all her stated values by just voting for Brett Kavanaugh and used over an hour to excoriate and dismissing the advocates, survivors and women fighting for justice—is running for re election. We’re ready to defeat her. https://t.co/w1CNNquj86
— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) December 18, 2019
"The day Susan Collins voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh was the day she destroyed her reputation as a reasonable moderate," said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, which advocates for a progressive judiciary. "A top priority for us in the coming year will be to continue to invest resources in Maine to ensure Collins never lives down her vote for Kavanaugh."
The group invested in a six-figure ad campaign earlier this year to highlight the damage Collins helped do by becoming the deciding vote in Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Following the senator's announcement Wednesday a number of political observers also pointed to her approach to impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as a potential liability for Collins' campaign.
In 1999, Greg Sargent wrote Tuesday at The Washington Post, Collins was a leading voice in the Senate calling for "more evidence" and "witnesses" to help lawmakers fulfill their "duty to do impartial justice" as they decided whether to impeach President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice.
"Her stance on whether to hear from witnesses at Trump's trial will figure bigly" in her campaign, predicted Sargent.
.@SenatorCollins just announced she's running for reelection.
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Her stance on whether to hear from witnesses at Trump's trial will figure bigly in that.
Luckily, we have video of Collins during the 1999 impeachment calling for more witnesses and evidence:https://t.co/vtuP0KECUi
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) December 18, 2019
MFAL has already condemned Collins for chastising Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for publicizing his plan for the impeachment proceedings, Follayttar said.
"She's already missed the first opportunity to speak out in a rational voice calling for process as she did in 1999," Follayttar told Common Dreams. "So I think Mainers will hold her accountable... This will be a moment when she's called on to do her job, because impeachment is part of the Constitution. And she was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate and uphold the Constitution."
The Be A Hero campaign, led by Medicare for All campaigner Ady Barkan, tweeted a video of Barkan pleading with Collins in 2017 to protect the Affordable Care Act before voting for the GOP tax plan.
Throwback: 2 years ago today.
"But it's my life on the line."
"I know." - Susan Collins (who went on to vote for the tax bill anyway)
2020 is — finally — right around the corner and that means it's time to vote Susan Collins out. pic.twitter.com/J2r3mjRMvi
— Be A Hero (@BeAHeroTeam) December 13, 2019
"This video of Senator Collins telling Ady Barkan, a dying man, that he should 'trust Senator McConnell' is ABSOLUTELY ENRAGING," tweeted anti-Trump campaigner Kristin Mink. "It was a year before she told women to trust Kavanaugh. She 'trusts' all the wrong people, which is why we can't trust her."
So far, at least seven Mainers have announced their campaigns for Collins' seat, including Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon and progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet, both Democrats, and Independent Tiffany Bond.
Collins "has toyed with Mainers long enough with her political games that have placed our healthcare at risk, allowed 60+ corporations to pay ZERO in taxes and installed extreme anti-choice justices into all levels of our court system," MFAL told Common Dreams in an emailed statement. "We will not stop until she is unseated in November 2020."