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 CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report 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 ClintonChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report A question for Robert Mueller 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 PelosiPelosi, Mnuchin reach 'near-final agreement' on budget, debt ceiling Wendy Davis launches bid for Congress in Texas Steyer calls on Pelosi to cancel 'six-week vacation' for Congress 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 McSallyTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE (R-Ariz.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment 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.