WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Susan Collins has won reelection in Maine, defeating Democratic nominee Sara Gideon, Decision Desk HQ determined Wednesday afternoon.
Collins told supporters she received a "very gracious call from Sara Gideon conceding the race."
Collins’ victory is a tough loss for liberal groups that united against her and raised millions to oust her from the seat since she voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh two years ago. Ahead of Election Day, Collins trailed slightly in the polls and significantly in fundraising; Gideon raised more than $63.6 million since she launched her campaign last summer, while Collins raised just $25.2 million over the last two years.
But Collins held on, securing enough votes to send her back to Washington for a fifth term, even as former vice president Joe Biden won the state.
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Collins is one of the rare Republican senators to break with her party on some major issues; she is pro–abortion rights, and she was one of just three Republicans who blocked their party’s own attempt to kill Obamacare. But she has drawn particular ire from Democrats for continuing to vote with President Donald Trump and more conservative members of her party on other issues. She voted with Trump 67.5% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, and has voted to confirm all but 10 of the president’s judicial nominees. She also voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial.
But her vote for Kavanaugh after he was accused of sexual assault during his confirmation process was perhaps the most galvanizing moment for liberals who set out to unseat her this cycle. Collins said at the time that she believed Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school, was a “survivor of a sexual assault” and that the allegations against him were “serious,” but she didn’t think they had been proven sufficiently to block his nomination.
Collins tried to woo centrist voters in the lead-up to Election Day. “We who are in the center need to be as energized as those on the extremes,” she told members of the USA Today editorial board last month. She added that she believes the Republican Party will be successful in the future if it returns “to its center-right roots.”
Ahead of the election, Collins said she would not vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee before Election Day, saying the next president should fill the seat, a decision that apparently infuriated the president.
Last month, Collins was the sole Republican senator to vote against Barrett.
Collins and Gideon both focused on healthcare in the weeks leading up to Election Day; in a debate last month, Gideon said she supported a public option for health insurance under Medicare (which means anyone, regardless of income, would be able to buy into the government-sponsored healthcare program instead of only through private insurers). Collins called such a move the “first step toward a government takeover of our healthcare.”
Gideon attracted the support of nearly every Democratic campaign group and managed to beat former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s record-breaking fundraising numbers. According to the Bangor Daily News, Gideon spent $11 million on ads alone from July to September. In total, however, according to the paper, more than $89 million was spent on ads in the area related to the Senate race, making it one of the most expensive in history.
Gideon currently serves as the speaker of the Maine State House and, like Collins, touted her bipartisan credentials throughout the campaign. Perhaps the most literal example, as the New York Times reported, under her speakership, she made members of both parties in the state House sit together, rather than on separate sides of the aisle.
Maine uses ranked-choice voting, and this year is the first time the system — in which voters rank the candidates instead of simply choosing one candidate — is being used in the presidential election.
If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, then voters' second choices will be counted, and then their third choices if there is still no candidate with a majority. Third-party candidate Lisa Savage had been telling voters who choose her as their first choice to pick Gideon as their second — but Collins will pass the 50% threshold on her own, Decision Desk HQ projected.
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Collins would not say whether she planned to vote for Trump this year, though the head of the Maine GOP, Demi Kouzounas, told reporters in August that the senator supports the president. “They’re not mutually exclusive. I think they both have their jobs to do. They both support each other,” Kouzounas said, according to Roll Call.
In a statement to Roll Call at the time, a Gideon spokesperson said, “Despite her refusal to tell Mainers who she’s voting for, Senator Collins has made her opinion on Donald Trump clear.”