Susan Collins Likely Gearing Up for Maine Gubernatorial Candidacy

by Philip H. DeVoe

Susan Collins’s nay vote on the skinny repeal of Obamacare is an early sign that she’s running for Maine governor in 2018. Current governor Paul LePage supported this claim in comments made to Maine press yesterday:

Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday he believes that Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, has her eye on the Blaine House [the Maine governor’s mansion].

“I think she knows what she’s doing. She’s planning to run for governor,” LePage told Portland radio station WGAN.

Collins, who’s been in the Senate for two decades and ranks 15th in seniority, has said she plans to decide by fall whether she wants to jump into the race to succeed LePage, whose term ends in 2018. He can’t run again because of term limits.

And ever since she withdrew her support for the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, she has been something of a celebrity in Maine:

The crowd had come to hear legendary crooner Rod Stewart and 1980s pop icon Cyndi Lauper sing their hits — but at a concert Friday in Bangor, Maine, Lauper paused between songs to summon a special guest to the stage: Sen. Susan Collins.

“Come out!” the pink-haired singer urged Collins, who hovered in the wings at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion. Lauper grasped the senator’s hands as the smiling lawmaker was greeted by cheers and whistles.

“Now this woman, this woman is a hero. And she’s my hero,” Lauper said. She paused. “And she’s a Republican!” (A notable detail, as Lauper has been outspoken about her progressive politics and performed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.)

She even landed in a tweet from Lauper:

And after returning to Maine from Friday morning’s vote to kill the skinny bill, Bangor airport customers greeted her with applause:

Obamacare is popular in the traditionally blue Maine, and even LePage, whom Politico called “an extreme conservative in a famously moderate state,” is careful when discussing issues of Obamacare repeal. An ardent supporter of President Donald Trump and of replacing Obamacare, he publicly questioned Trump’s leadership in March:

Republican Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that letting Obamacare fail is as sensible as jumping off of a bridge.

Though the Maine governor did not mention Donald Trump by name, the President has repeatedly said that his new plan to replace Obamacare involves first waiting for the law to “explode.” LePage was a supporter of Trump’s during the presidential campaign.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, so let’s keep hurting the American people,” LePage said on the “George Hale Ric Tyler Show” on WVOM Maine radio. “That’s about as sensible as go jump off a bridge. That makes no sense. If you are telling people let it fail so the American people can get hurt more and when they get hurt more maybe we’ll do something, why don’t you go jump off a bridge? That’s just about as sensible.”

Collins has always been a right-leaning centrist, consistently scoring in the 80s on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard — which is more useful as a judge of political orientation than a defense of “human rights” — and earning praise from the Left for her pro-choice positions. But she also has a history of switching to left-wing policies to attract Maine voters:

She supports [gay marriage], although she did not do so publicly until 2014, when she was being challenged in her reelection race by Democrat Shenna Bellows, a longtime [gay marriage] activist. Collins won reelection . . . 

And, today, she became the only Republican senator among 44 Democrats and Bernie Sanders to sign a letter requesting Defense Secretary James Mattis and President Trump reconsider the policy to remove transgender servicepeople from the U.S. military.

These positions are preparing her for a tough battle in a consistently blue state, where election reform will make the 2018 election challenging for a Republican. LePage, one of the most controversial U.S. governors, won reelection in 2014 almost entirely based on two left-wing candidates splitting the Democratic vote. Collins placed third against two strong Democratic candidates when she ran in 1994, so she’s locking in support early with left-wing positions. Get ready for an announcement in the fall.

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