Sara Gideon wins Democratic race to challenge Susan Collins

Sara Gideon wins Democratic race to challenge Susan Collins
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Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday to take on Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase MORE (R-Maine) in November. 

Gideon beat out two more progressive opponents in the primary, lobbyist Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman. She was leading with 70 percent of the vote with 13 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.

Her victory didn’t come as a surprise; she was the heavy favorite to win the nomination and has already spent months directing her efforts against Collins.

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Still, Gideon’s primary win formalizes a match-up that Democrats have been waiting more than a year for. Collins is among the most vulnerable GOP incumbents seeking reelection this year, and Gideon is one of the Democratic Party’s top recruits. 

"We did it! Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign to elect a senator who will fight for Mainers—not special interests," Gideon said in a tweet after her victory.

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Democrats need to pick up at least three or four seats this year — depending on which party wins control of the White House — to capture a Senate majority, and they see Collins’s seat in Maine as absolutely crucial to achieving that goal. 

Collins, a four-term incumbent who has long been reelected on her reputation as an independent-minded Republican, ignited fury among Democrats in 2017 after she voted to confirm Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE to the Supreme Court as he faced allegations of sexual assault.

Gideon, in a campaign speech posted online, went after Collins for her Kavanaugh vote and the administration's appointment of conservative federal judges.

"Over the last few weeks, we've watched the Supreme Court decide cases that could affect millions of Americans, and we remember that Senator Collins has been a key part of Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE's (R-Ky.) effort to staff the federal bench with unqualified, far right judges."
 
"And as President Trump continues to divide our country, we remember all of the times when Senator Collins enabled and excused his attacks on our Democracy," she added. "Senator Collins has changed. And Mainers deserve better. Mainers deserve a Senator who will bring people together to overcome the challenges we face and deliver real results."

In a video released via tweet, Collins, who was unchallenged in her primary, said she's looking forward to November. 

"I'm looking forward to the campaign in the fall because I know that I have your support. Together we will prevail, and I can assure you that I will continue to fight hard for the state of Maine each and every day," Collins said.

Since Gideon announced her Senate bid last year, money has poured into her campaign. Her campaign announced this month that she had raised more than $9 million in the second quarter of 2020. Her most recent available financial report shows that she had roughly $5.5 million in cash on hand, about $500,000 more than Collins had in the bank. 

Collins and Gideon have already been airing ads against each other for months, and outside groups have spent heavily in the state in anticipation of a match-up between the two candidates, fueling the expectation that the 2020 Senate race will be the most expensive in Maine’s history.

Polls already show a tight race between Collins and Gideon. A survey from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling conducted in early July showed Gideon with a 4-point lead over Collins.

Abigail Mihaly contributed.

Updated at 10:55 p.m.