Sen. Susan Collins may be absent from this week’s Republican National Convention, but she supports President Donald Trump, according to the head of Maine’s Republican Party.
Maine GOP Chairperson Demi Kouzounas — when asked on a call arranged by a Trump campaign committee about Collins’ absence from the convention — said Monday that the senator supports Trump.
“They’re not mutually exclusive. I think they both have their jobs to do. They both support each other,” Kouzounas said on a Trump Victory call with reporters.
Collins, a Maine Republican, is one of the most vulnerable senators running this year. Collins campaign aide Kevin Kelley said the senator works with the president when she thinks he's right, such as when tariffs on live and frozen American lobster were eliminated, and opposes him when she thinks he's wrong.
"That’s how she has been able to deliver results for the people of Maine," he said.
But the campaign of her Democratic opponent, state House Speaker Sara Gideon, seized on Kouzounas' comment.
“Despite her refusal to tell Mainers who she’s voting for, Senator Collins has made her opinion on Donald Trump clear,” Gideon spokeswoman Maeve Coyle said in an email to CQ Roll Call.
Collins, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, has not taken a stance on whom she plans to back for president. She opposed Trump in 2016 when she wasn’t on the ballot. “I didn’t have my own race to worry about at that point,” she told reporters in July.
Gideon voted for, and endorsed, former Vice President Joe Biden in Maine’s Democratic presidential primary back in March.
The Maine Democratic Party seized on the comments by Kouzounas.
“Senator Collins may be able to skip her party’s convention, but she can’t escape her record of having voted with Trump 94% of the time,” Kathleen Marra, the state Democratic Party chairperson, said in a statement. “With even the head of her party confirming that she supports Trump, Maine voters can see through this flimsy facade, and they’re ready to replace both Collins and Trump this November.”
Marra was citing data for Collins’ votes in 2017 and 2018. CQ Vote Watch data covering 471 votes since Trump took office for which his position was clear shows Collins bucked the president 48 times, giving her a presidential unity score of nearly 90 percent.
But the average for Senate Republicans was 97 percent, and Kentucky’s Rand Paul was the only GOP senator with a lower presidential unity score than Collins during that time. Paul, who is not on the ballot this year, is speaking at the GOP convention Tuesday night.
Collins cast a key vote in 2018 to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was rocked by an allegation of sexual assault dating to his time in high school. His placement on the high court is often touted by Trump as one of his biggest accomplishments in office.
Collins had $5.5 million in cash on hand to Gideon’s $5.4 million as of June 30, according to Federal Election Commission records. Overall, Gideon raised $24.2 million compared to Collins’ $16.9 million through June 30, and Gideon also received a transfer of more than $3.7 million after securing the Democratic nomination last moth. That money was donated in 2018 by people outraged over the Kavanaugh vote who wanted it to go to Collins’ opponent this year.
The GOP convention and Collins’ views on Trump aren’t the only things on her campaign agenda this week. Her campaign is also pushing back against a pair of ads from outside groups criticizing her past work to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service in 2006.
Collins’ campaign issued a lengthy news release Tuesday calling the vulnerable incumbent “a longtime champion for the Postal Service and its workers” and noting that the 14-year-old law at issue passed with bipartisan support, including from Democrats such as current Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and current Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Maine Senate race a Toss-up.
Kate Ackley contributed to this report.