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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 CollinsSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill On The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax GOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings 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 ClintonClinton: Allegations against Cuomo 'raise serious questions,' deserve probe Clinton, Pelosi holding online Women's Day fundraiser with Chrissy Teigen, Amanda Gorman Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden 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 PelosiRepublican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote Clinton, Pelosi holding online Women's Day fundraiser with Chrissy Teigen, Amanda Gorman What good are the intelligence committees? 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 McSallyHouse Freedom Caucus chair weighs Arizona Senate bid New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees The Seventeenth Amendment and the censure of Donald Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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.