Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid

Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid
© Greg Nash

Former Maine gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet announced Thursday she is challenging Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret Collins2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds MORE (R-Maine) for her Senate seat. 

Sweet, who has directed the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Commission for Women, expressed support for abortion rights, health care for all and fighting climate change in her announcement speech. 

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“Our division isn’t between our neighbors on the left and right,” she said in the speech, according to prepared remarks. “The division is between us and them – between working people and the rich and powerful elite who are lining the pockets of politicians and putting the needs of Maine families at the bottom of the list.”

She was endorsed by the progressive group Democracy for America, whose CEO Yvette Simpson called Sweet “the kind of bold leader who can harness the grassroots energy that’s been growing in Maine for years," in a statement.

Collins, who is in her fourth term, is one of two GOP senators running for reelection in a state Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race MORE carried in 2016. A moderate, she is considered by many to be hard to beat.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee in a statement slammed Sweet as a "radical left-wing activist," touting Collins for her bipartisan record in the Senate.

"Susan Collins has the most bipartisan record in the U.S. Senate because she works with members of both parties to deliver results for Maine families," said NRSC spokesperson Nathan Brand. "Meanwhile, lobbyist Betsy Sweet is a radical left-wing activist committed to making the loony policy dreams of Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Five things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' MORE a reality."

But she came under fire for her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year amid fears a conservative majority on the court would threaten Roe v. Wade. She's become a target of progressive groups for that judicial vote and others, though last month she spoke out against the restrictive abortion laws being passed in states across the U.S.

The Cook Political Report rates her race as leaning Republican, putting her in a more vulnerable category than most Republican senators up for reelection, though in safer territory than Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyProgressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' MORE (R-Ariz.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Tariffs threaten 1.5M jobs: Study This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Colo.).

Other Democrats have entered or are also mulling a challenge to Collins, with state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) seen as the likeliest Collins challenger.

Updated 6:48 p.m.