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Gideon Concession to Collins Dashes Democratic Hopes to Oust Reviled Maine GOP Senator

The four-term Republican's win follows her much-maligned vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) gives a thumbs up to supporters after announcing her competitor Sara Gideon called to concede on November 4, 2020 in Bangor, Maine

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) gives a thumbs up to supporters after announcing her competitor Sara Gideon called to concede on November 4, 2020 in Bangor, Maine. (Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine claimed victory Wednesday after Democratic challenger Sara Gideon conceded the contest, further undermining hopes for Democrats to take control of the U.S. Senate.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Collins— the nation's most unpopular senator— had 51% to Gideon's 42%. Independent Lisa Savage notched 5% of the vote, while Max Linn, another Independent, secured 2%.

"I am proud of the campaign we ran and regardless of the result, together, we built a movement that will make progress for years to come," Gideon, speaker of the Maine House, said in a concession speech Wednesday.

According to Marie Follayttar, executive director of the grassroots group Mainers for Accountable Leadership, there was still good news to glean from the outcome, saying that while "Collins won today...  the collective movement to unseat her knocked 20 points off of a four-term incumbent and de-mythologized her moderate myth to thousands of Mainers many who had voted for her before."

Follayttar further criticized Collins for having "campaigned on a bus tour across all of Maine without one public stop to face the people who voted against her."

Gideon had been leading in polls in the run-up to Election Day, and the Associated Press described as Collins as being in the "hardest-fought race of her career" in which she emerged victorious after receiving "a majority of first-place votes. That meant no additional tabulation rounds were necessary under Maine's ranked choice voting system."

"Collins' triumph came after a yearlong campaign in which Democrats and aligned interest groups organized a massive and well-funded effort to unseat her," Maine Public reported

The Republican senator has long described herself as a centrist and moderate voice, claims her opponents said were clearly rubbish in the face of her actions during the Trump administration.

As Common Dreams reported in December when Collins announced her bid for a fifth term:

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.

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Such decisions drew outrage from progressives nationwide—and within Collins' home state. Politico reported in May:

Dan Shea, author of the most recent Colby College poll, says Collins' case for independence wasn't helped by her vote to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial in February. Nor was her assertion that the president "had learned his lesson" from the ordeal (a day after she made that statement, Trump told reporters, not the for the first time, his conduct was "perfect"). Nor was her refusal to answer questions about whether she voted for Trump in the Republican primary in March.

"Every decision she makes seems to align her more closely with the Donald Trump and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell movement," Shea says. "Here in Maine, that's become the anvil around her neck."

Gideon was endorsed by progressive groups NARAL Pro-Choice America and Women's March Action but faced criticism on the left for being "no progressive champion"—not embracing bold and popular policies including Medicare for All or a Green New Deal.

Independent Savage, who'd called on Maine voters to rank to her first and "Vote Blue Two" under the state's ranked choice voting system, pointed to those absences of policies from Gideon's campaign.

"Without us in the race, there would have been no candidate to advocate for Medicare for All, despite it being supported by 69% of U.S. residents, and despite the race being conducted in the middle of a global pandemic, leaving people with thousands of dollars in medical bills," Savage said in a statement Wednesday. 

"Without us in the race," she added, "supporters of positions like demilitarizing the police, offering universal childcare, providing free public university education, and cancelling student debt would have had no candidate representing their values. In fact, without us in the race, it's unlikely anyone would have heard much about policy proposals at all."

"Susan Collins didn't have a single policy position on her campaign website. Sara Gideon's website inexplicably had no mention of foreign policy, the coronavirus, or racial justice," said Savage. "On what were voters to base their opinions?"

Follayttar, in her statement, made clear her organization is undeterred in its fight for progressive values, promising that "with every tough vote we will be pressuring Susan Collins to be accountable to the people she represents and not the big corporate donors who funded her campaign."

"Moving forward," she continued, "we have a large coalition of in state organizations who will continue to advocate for policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal" and will "work to get money out of politics."

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