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Collins says Gideon 'will say or do anything to try to win'

Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins says systemic racism isn't 'a problem' in Maine Biden, Cunningham hold narrow leads in North Carolina: poll GOP sees path to hold Senate majority MORE went after Sara Gideon, her Democratic challenger in Maine's increasingly hostile Senate race, and accused the state House Speaker of “defaming my reputation and attacking my integrity.”

“She will say or do anything to try to win,” Collins said of her opponent during an interview with Politico released Wednesday. “This race is built on a foundation of falsehoods. And trying to convince the people of Maine that somehow I am no longer the same person.”

The longtime GOP senator knocked Gideon, who was born and raised in Rhode Island, as being an outsider.

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“I grew up in Caribou, I’ve lived in Bangor for 26 years. My family’s been in Maine for generations. She’s been in Maine for about 15 years and lives in Freeport,” Collins said. “That's a big difference in our knowledge of the state.”

Collins also criticized Gideon’s handling of a sexual misconduct scandal involving Dillon Bates, a former state legislator accused of having sexual relationships with students as a teacher.

“Sara’s own spokesperson conceded that Sara had known about this for a long time. And actually said that Sara told Dillon Bates that, should [the scandal] become public, he would have to go. Now, why, whether or not it became public would be the triggering event, and why she didn’t ask for an investigation, are legitimate issues,” Collins said.

Gideon confronted Bates about the “rumors” in the spring of 2018 and did not launch an ethics investigation, according to local outlet WCSH. She became the first legislator to call for his resignation in August 2018.

Maine’s divisive race has placed the Senate Republican majority in jeopardy and millions have been poured into the race on both sides in TV ads and media buys.

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Collins has faced backlash in recent years, most notably for coming out in favor of confirming President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE's Supreme Court nominee Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughVermont secretary of State says Kavanaugh's correction still unsatisfactory Kavanaugh corrects opinion in voting case following Vermont official's objection The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE, who was facing sexual misconduct allegations, in 2018. The senator is currently facing pressure from both sides of the political aisle over the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgThe truth, the whole truth about protecting preexisting conditions McConnell plans to fill two key circuit court seats even if Trump loses GOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash MORE's death.

Collins, who did not support Trump in the 2016 election, has refused to reveal whether she will vote for him in November.

“I wish the president would not tweet insults. There’s a lot about his style that is completely opposite of mine. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t right on some issues,” she said, citing his policies on China and tax cuts.

“My personal presidential preference, I do not believe is an important factor in this race. I’m not saying that the left is not trying to tie me to Donald Trump … they clearly are,” Collins told the news outlet, adding that “my independence is the same as it’s always been.”

Politico noted that Collins has not led a public poll since July and surveys show Gideon in the lead by an average of 6 points. However, a Bangor Daily News poll released this week showed a tighter race with Gideon in the lead by a single point.

Collins insisted that the race is “essentially tied” when speaking to the outlet last week.

“It’s very frustrating because it’s backed by so much money. And it's been going on for two years now: Non-stop negative ads. That eventually it pulls you down,” Collins said of the campaign against her. “What's amazing is that I’m still going to win.”

Gideon’s campaign declined to make the Democrat available to Politico for an interview, citing her busy schedule.

“Senator Collins’ votes for 181 of Trump’s far-right judicial nominees, for the corporate tax giveaway that put Mainers’ health care in jeopardy and her continued refusal to stand up to Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop Senate GOP super PAC makes final .6M investment in Michigan Senate race On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE and Donald Trump show just how much she's changed after 24 years in Washington,” said Maeve Coyle, a Gideon spokeswoman, in a statement to the news outlet. “Her desperate, misleading attacks on Sara make clear that she’s willing to do anything to stay there.”