BLUE HILL, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said that though it is exciting that John McCain has picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate in the presidential campaign, she is not going to attend the Republican National Convention next week in Minneapolis.

Collins attended the annual Blue Hill Fair on Friday afternoon, speaking with fair-goers as she walked the fairgrounds for about 90 minutes. The visit was part of a statewide campaign bus tour that is scheduled to take Collins to Norridgewock on Monday for a Labor Day parade.

Collins said Friday that Palin has executive experience serving as governor of Alaska and that she brings several other advantages to the Republican presidential ticket.

“She appears to share [McCain’s] commitment for reform,” Collins said. “She has a proven record of challenging the old boys’ network.”

Palin’s lack of experience — she has been governor for less than two years and was a mayor in an Anchorage suburb before that — is not a concern, Collins said. Palin is known for having pushed for higher ethical standards in Alaskan state government, she said, and the position with which experience matters the most is president, not vice president. McCain has plenty of experience in Washington and doesn’t always toe the party line, she said.

“He didn’t need to compensate in that area,” Collins said of McCain, who has served in Congress since 1982. “He’s trying to send a message that he doesn’t want business as usual in Washington.”

Collins also said she is glad McCain has picked a woman as a running mate.

“I loved that she described herself as a hockey mom,” Collins said. “That’s something we can relate to here in Maine.”

Collins also defended her decision not to go to the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

Critics of Collins have said she is not going because she wants to distance herself from the Bush administration and her party, which has not been doing well at the polls this year. But Collins said her decision not to go has nothing to do with the national political climate.

She said she never goes to the event when it coincides with one of her political campaigns. She also skipped the convention in 1996, when she first ran and was elected to the Senate, she said.

A lot of campaigning can be done in a week and there are only about 50 Mainers who attend the national convention, according to Collins. Here in Maine, she said, she has more than a million constituents to connect with.

“Eight weeks before the election, I’d rather be campaigning here in Maine,” she said.

Attempts Friday evening to contact the campaign of U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, the 1st District congressman challenging Collins for her seat, were unsuccessful.

Collins said she is enjoying her bus tour and has spoken with many people along the way. She said the response she has gotten from people she comes across when the bus passes through their town has been enthusiastic.

“I’m very happy with the way the campaign is going,” she said.

Collins’ bus tour is expected to take her to Enfield today to the Windsor Fair and to Boothbay on Sunday and to Norridgewock on Monday for a Labor Day parade, according to Steve Abbott, Collins’ campaign manager. In Boothbay, Collins is expected to attend a ceremony honoring Elle Logan, a local resident who recently won a gold medal in rowing at the Beijing Olympics. Logan’s sister Jessie Logan works in Collins’ Bangor office.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....