Collins wins Maine race, narrowing Democratic chances for Senate majority
GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) clinched a fifth Senate term on Wednesday, keeping the hotly contested seat in Republican hands.
Collins’s victory, which comes more than 17 hours after polls in the state closed, makes it increasingly unlikely that Democrats will be able to chart a narrow course back to the Senate majority in 2021.
Democratic nominee Sara Gideon called Collins to concede and The Associated Press called the race shortly before 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday.
“I just received a very gracious call from Sara Gideon conceding the race. I want to publicly thank Sara for her call. We had a good talk,” Collins said in Maine.
Collins kept a steady lead in the race and stayed above 50 percent — the threshold for avoiding the race going to ranked choice.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Collins had 51 percent of the vote compared to Gideon’s 42.4 percent with 85 percent of the vote in, according to the AP.
Gideon, speaking in a livestreamed event, acknowledged defeat, saying that her campaign to oust the GOP incumbent “came up short.”
“Just now I spoke with Sen. Collins. I congratulated her on winning this election and I told her that I will always be available to help serve the people of Maine,” Gideon said.
Collins was one of two GOP senators running for reelection in a state won by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. The second, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), lost on Tuesday night.
Collins trailed Gideon in polls for months, but Republicans didn’t rule out a come-from-behind finish. A GOP official said days before the Nov. 3 election that they believed the race, which marked the most expensive in the state’s history, was tightening in the final stretch.
The GOP senator’s win is still significantly smaller than her 2014 victory when she carried more than 68 percent of the vote. But since then she sparked fierce backlash because of her 2018 vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced decades-old sexual assault allegations.
Collins tried to separate her race from the ever-looming national election. She did not support President Trump in 2016 and repeatedly refused to say heading into the election if she would vote for him this year. Pressed by Gideon on the issue during the final debate, Collins responded, “I’m not getting into presidential politics.”
More recently Collins was the only Republican to oppose Justice Amy Coney Barrett because she did not believe a vote should take place before the election.
She’s also played up her seniority in the Senate, noting that if Republicans hold onto the Senate she is in line — behind Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) — to chair the influential Appropriations Committee.
“I am next in line to be the chair of the Appropriations Committee that is the most important and consequential committee post in the entire Senate,” Collins told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Collins, first elected to the Senate in 1997, is part of a dwindling faction of moderates in the Senate.
She signaled over the summer that she wouldn’t campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden because they worked together when he was in the Senate. If Biden wins the White House, Democrats are likely to look to Collins as they try to cut deals in an era of divided government.
“That’s what I think we need more of, less polarization more pulling together,” Collins said.
Collins’s win makes it increasingly unlikely that Democrats will be able to snag a victory in the battle for the Senate and take over the majority next year.
With Maine staying in GOP hands, Democrats will hold at least 47 seats and Republicans will hold 48 seats.
Democrats are facing an increasingly narrow path to winning back the chamber.
Aside from Maine, four other races remain uncalled and a fifth — the Georgia special election for the seat currently held by GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler — is going to a Jan. 5 runoff.
Three of the-yet-to-be-decided races are held by Republicans: Alaska, Georgia where Sen. David Perdue (R) is also up, and North Carolina. The fourth seat, Michigan, is held by Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.
Republicans are feeling bullish about chances of winning North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has led in the polls since Tuesday night. GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan also appears to be cruising to reelection in Alaska.
If Republicans win North Carolina and Alaska, and Peters hold onto Michigan, Democrats would still have to win both Georgia races just to get to a 50-50 tie.
Updated: 2 p.m.