‘The Maine electorate has had it with her’: Constituents turn on Susan Collins

Senator Susan Collins of Maine spoke to news media at Saint Anselm College in Manchester in September 2018.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine spoke to news media at Saint Anselm College in Manchester in September 2018.

Senator Susan Collins’s reputation for bipartisanship has brought her respect across the aisle over 22 years in Washington, D.C. But these days, the famously temperate 66-year-old senior stateswoman from Maine is inspiring the kind of liberal animus more typically directed at people named Trump.

“Betrayed” is a word that comes up.

“I used to think that she was kind of a voice of reason. I thought she could maybe go across the aisle and get some things done,” said Pam Cunningham, a Boothbay Democrat who voted for Collins last time around.

Collins’s vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has galvanized left-leaning activists like Cunningham, who are actively trying to unseat her in 2020 — and though they don’t yet have a candidate, they have raised nearly $3.8 million.

Early in the Donald Trump era, Collins was eyed optimistically by Democrats as someone who might save their day. But the Supreme Court vote was the latest in a string of positions Collins has taken where, after lengthy, attention-getting deliberations, she sided with the GOP. For some voters, hope in Collins has curdled into vengeance.

“The Maine electorate has had it with her not voting with the majority of her constituents,” said Amy Halsted, co-director of the Maine People’s Alliance, a statewide community organizing group that has about 32,000 members. “They no longer believe her claims to be a moderate.”

At the same time, the political mood in Maine has been volatile. The state supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, and after two terms of the combative conservative Governor Paul LePage, flipped the state government blue in November, handing Democrats the governor’s office, Senate, and House.

Given that backdrop, Democratic organizations were already viewing Collins as vulnerable. Now, they are trying to attach to her blame not only for her own votes, but for those of Kavanaugh.

When he, for instance, dissented on an abortion rights case this month, left-wing political organizations pounced on Collins. Demand Justice, a judicial advocacy group, launched a digital ad targeting Collins and warning, “We Won’t Forget.” The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee panned Kavanaugh’s ruling, calling him “Senator Collins’s Supreme Court Judge.”

Of course, Collins was alternately cheered by the right, which rewarded her mightily for her pivotal support for Kavanaugh. In the three months following the vote, Collins set a career high for quarterly fund-raising, drawing in nearly $1.8 million. The previous quarter, she had raised only $140,000.

“People generally like Susan Collins in Maine. I would never underestimate her,” said Brian Duff, a political scientist and associate professor at University of New England in Maine. “But I do think she’s uniquely vulnerable this go-round.”

Activists have been birddogging Collins since the opening days of the Trump administration, protesting Cabinet appointees and staging sit-ins in her office, said Marie Follayttar, a sculptor who founded Mainers for Accountable Leadership. The Maine People’s Alliance intends to knock on doors to reach hundreds of thousands of voters this year, highlighting Collins’s record and arguing that she is not representing Maine voters’ interests.

In a statement, Collins suggested she is still calling them like she sees them and pointed to a number of votes she has taken against her party — opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the nominations of Cabinet appointees Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos, for instance.

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“Often these outside groups, on both sides, want 100% fidelity to 100% of their views 100% of the time,” Collins said in a statement. “But I’ve always believed that neither side has a monopoly on good ideas and that in order to craft the best policy, you need to bring both sides to the table to find common ground.”

Collins also said she is accustomed to being in the public eye, “as a centrist who is willing to work across the aisle and who must often cast the deciding vote.”

But she said she is concerned “by the appalling hyperpartisanship that has repeatedly prevented us from getting things done on behalf of the American people.’’

Early on, when Collins bucked the Republican Party and voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act, Mainers gave her a hero’s welcome, literally cheering her return to the Bangor airport. But later she voted for a tax bill that would undo a key part of the health law, the individual mandate.

Then, the signs greeting her at the airport simply said, “Shame.’’

“Collins had given so many Mainers hope that she would protect our health care with her votes against the repeal of the ACA,” said Follayttar.

While Collins had long carefully honed her reputation as a moderate, Duff pointed to recent votes he views as “obviously problematic,” including her support for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and her vote for a tax cut package that will increase the deficit.

“She has very little chance of explaining that vote in a way that makes sense to Maine voters,” Duff said.

Conversely, he thought she was consistent in her vote for Kavanaugh, which she painstakingly explained it in a 45-minute floor speech in October. “It was articulate, thoughtful, consistent with the way she has spoken and voted through her career,” he said.

That wasn’t the way that Collins’s critics heard her speech, however.

“I have never been so disappointed in anybody in my life,” said Laurie Fear, an addictions counselor and activist who lives in Portland.

That was also an ugly and trying period for Collins, who faced protesters at home and at her offices, whose aides fielded rape and death threats. Her house was visited by a haz-mat team after she received an envelope purporting to contain ricin. Activists sent to her 3,000 coat hangers, symbolizing the tools of back-alley abortions that activists say women would resort to if Kavanaugh helped roll back abortion rights.

Anti-Kavanaugh activists also raised money and pledged to donate it to Collins’s next opponent if she voted to confirm the nomination. She called that tantamount to bribery.

“Anyone who thought I would auction off my vote to the highest bidder obviously doesn’t know me. I made my decision based on the merits of the nomination,” she said. “This effort played no role in my decision-making whatsoever.”

That is heartbreaking to such people as Cunningham — who joined other Maine women to meet Collins in Washington in hopes of persuading her to vote against Kavanaugh.

She opened up to Collins about her own attempted rape, which she had seldom spoken of, in the hopes of explaining why a woman would not immediately report a sexual assault, as was the case with the women who accused Kavanaugh.

“We all thought maybe our stories would get through to her on a personal level, a woman-to-woman kind of thing,” said Cunningham.

Later, Collins sent her a form letter that mentioned that very meeting with survivors of sexual assault as evidence of the thorough deliberations she undertook in making the decision. “She was using my story to try to portray herself in a favorable light,” Cunningham said. “I really don’t think she did take our opinions into consideration.”

Ariel Linet, a disability attorney and Portland constituent who called and visited Collins’s offices trying to urge her to vote against Kavanaugh, said she no longer views Collins as a moderate.

“I don’t think that she’s taken any brave stances against her party,” she said. “I think she’s hemmed and hawed a lot and ultimately always toed the party line.”

https://www.crowdpac.com/campaigns/387413/fund-susan-collins-future-opponent

Maine: Senator Susan Collins joins effort to secure back pay for federal contractors

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is supporting legislation that would ensure federal contractors are given back pay after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is supporting legislation that aims to help federal contractors by providing back pay to offset the financial damage they experienced during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act would reimburse federal contractors by providing back pay — up to 200% of the federal poverty level for a family of four. It would also include ways to protect taxpayer funds and cover employees working on federally-funded construction projects or under federal service contracts.

Collins has publicly said she opposes government shutdowns and thinks they represent a “failure to govern.” In a written statement, Collins remarked on the efforts she is making in Congress to mitigate the impact of 35 days of unpaid work on federal employees.

“Last month, Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation I co-authored to guarantee that federal employees would be paid retroactively once the shutdown ended,” said Collins. “Congress should now take the next step to ensure that federal contractors…are given back pay to help offset the financial injury they experienced due to furloughs and reduced hours.”

The act would help low-wage employees, like janitorial staff and food service workers, in particular.

Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Can Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act. 35 other Senators and more than 50 members of the House support the act.

Last month, Collins co-authored the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act with Sen. Cardin to make sure furloughed federal employees were paid as soon as the shutdown ended. This act was signed into law. Collins also introduced the Shutdown Fairness Act with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to ensure federal workers who are required to come to work every day are paid on time.

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Maine: Firefighters battle a fire in Mattawamkeag on Hathway Road; One dog perished, another missing.

Coombs said, one of the family dogs perished in the fire and another is missing.

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Five fire departments were called to a reported trailer fire on the Hathaway Road in Mattawamkeag Sunday morning.

A Penobscot County Dispatcher said the building was totally involved by firefighters first arrived.

It was originally reported that people were still inside the home but Mattawamkeag Fire Chief Michael Coombs said there was no one home at the time of the fire.

Political Brew: Thousands of bills; and the 2020 race is on and Susan Collins relys on out-of-State funding.

As the legislative session ramps up, some surprising proposals bubble up. But should they all be taken seriously? And Sen. Susan Collins’ fundraising shows the campaign season never ends.

Phil Harriman and John Richardson are skeptical about a bill proposed last week that would force a consumer takeover of Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, two companies with a combined worth estimated at $4 billion.

Former Speaker of the House John Richardson acknowledges that “CMP has some serious customer relations problems, and that in my opinion is what’s driving this bill. Does this bill have a reasonable chance of getting through? Of course not.”

Phil Harriman, a former state senator, feels “This is not this is not the direction the Maine Legislature should be going, which says to private business, ‘we don’t like the way you’re  doing business, so we are going to take over your business.’ I don’t think that’s going to work.”

They also discuss a proposal that was floated and quickly withdrawn that would have required Mainers to buy snow tires for their vehicles. Our analysts believe this sort of bill points out a chronic problem for the Maine Legislature. A couple of thousand bills are introduced at the start of each session.

Says Harriman, “Every legislator has the right during ‘open season’ to put in any bill of any type that they want. And this is why you see bills like this being introduced. They’re not going anywhere, and it makes fodder for those who want to criticize the way government operates.”

And Richardson says “When these kinds of bills come forward it makes a mockery of the legislature. What happens unfortunately, is that everybody is tainted with ‘what are you trying to do? Force us to buy snow tires?'”

Campaign finance reports this past week revealed that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)  brought in $1.8 million in the last quarter of 2018, following her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

John Richardson says that controversial vote was good politics for Collins, at least outside of Maine. “I think that’s where she’s gaining and will gain most of the money she raises for the next election. She could raise more than $10 million for the 2020 race.”

Harriman says this is a sign that “This is what politics has become today. Campaigns never end. We don’t put our party affiliation aside and operate as Americans or Mainers anymore, it’s all about the election.”

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report

Maine: Michael Fitzherbert, 35, of Hartford dies in early morning wreck

A 35 year old man was partially ejected and died at the scene of a crash early Saturday morning in Wayne.

PORTLAND, Maine — State Police believe speed played a role in a deadly crash that partially ejected a driver in Wayne. Troopers say 35 year old Michael Fitzherbert of Hartford was driving north on Route 133 around 1:30 Saturday morning when his 2001 Chevy Blazer went off the right side of the road, hit a utility pole and ended up on its roof.

Troopers say Mr. Fitzherbert wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from his vehicle in the crash. He died at the scene.

The crash knocked out power and CMP crews worked in subzero temperatures to get it restored as soon as possible. The road was closed for three hours for the investigation.

Author: Adrienne Stein, News Center Maine

Remembering Maine’s greatest filmmaker: John Ford

Born in Cape Elizabeth and raised in Portland, Ford would go on to direct films such as: “Stagecoach,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Searchers,” the last of which has been called the greatest Western ever made.

PORTLAND, Maine — The next time you find yourself at Thursday night trivia at your favorite pub, you’ll be ready when this question comes up: Who has won the most Academy Awards for best director?

Answer: John Ford.

Does the name ring a bell? To anyone under the age of fifty, maybe not. Which goes to show how fleeting fame can be in the flickering dream world of Hollywood.

Born in Cape Elizabeth and raised in Portland, Ford went to Los Angeles and got into the motion picture industry because his older brother worked in it. Making movies suited him, and as the silent film era gave way to talkies, Ford navigated the transition smoothly. By the time he retired in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as one of the masters, the only person ever to win four Oscars for directing.

Among his landmark films: “Stagecoach,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Searchers,” the last of which has been called the greatest Western ever made.

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Michael Connolly, a professor at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, has written extensively about John Ford, who was born on February 1, 1894—125 years ago. In talking to us about Ford’s legacy, he listed his three favorite Ford movies.

If you’re not familiar with the work of the greatest filmmaker ever to come out of Maine, this might be a place to start.

1. How Green was My Valley – Who could avoid falling in love with Maureen O’Hara, especially after the minister was unable to? It involves important issues of industrialism, labor unions, and religious tensions.

2. The Quiet Man – Filmed around my home County Galway with scenes that stay with you forever.

3. The Last Hurrah – We had a hotel and restaurant in South Portland by the Mall that used that name. It tells the story of Boston’s famous Irish Mayor, James Michael Curley, and shows what good a person in political office can do if done for the right reasons. Not mentioned much, but starring Spencer Tracy and filled with Irish humor.

Maine: Raymond man, Scott Gardner injured in snowmobile crash in Casco

Game Warden John McDonald says Scott Gardner, 52, of Raymond, was thrown from his snowmobile after hitting a rock hidden under the snow along the pipeline trail around 1:30 p.m. Jan. 30.

Gardner was taken by helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center with possible damage to his ribs and spleen.

McDonald says he was wearing a helmet.