Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican Convention, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that he doesn’t believe a nominee’s position on Roe v. Wade should be a factor for senators voting for Supreme Court nominees, contradicting a statement from Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins indicating that’s what she intends to do.

The Republican governor said during a radio interview that the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion “should not be an issue” that decides whether a nominee to the bench is successful.

“It’s the law of the land,” LePage said. “If they can make a case for getting rid of it, let’s do it.”

The statement came in response to a question about Collins’ role in the upcoming Senate vote to confirm or reject whoever President Donald Trump nominates. Trump has said he intends to name a nominee on Monday following the announcement by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy that he intends to retire at the end of the month.

Trump said during his campaign that he will nominate staunchly pro-life judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion a state-level issue.

Collins said Sunday during a television interview that she won’t support a nominee who has “demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wade because that would mean “their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law.”

Collins’ vote could be crucial to the success of a nominee. She and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two Republican senators who back abortion rights and hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, meaning Trump needs all of them for his nominee to be confirmed without the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence.

LePage argued that courts and judges are as political as the executive and legislative branches and that he values nominees who are “highly intellectual” on issues before the court.

“They’re all political, so let’s just find a person that we can all agree with and put him on there,” LePage said.

Collins’ office did not immediately respond to questions from the Bangor Daily News, but she has been a target of progressive groups in the fight over Kennedy’s replacement over the past week. Several Maine groups held a press call on Thursday urging Collins and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King to reject members of Trump’s public shortlist of potential nominees.

National groups have entered the fray. Demand Justice launched a $5 million ad and organizing effort in Maine and Alaska, according to Politico. Protect Our Care kicked off what a spokeswoman called a six-figure ad campaign, with one TV ad calling it an “emergency” for health care. NARAL Pro-Choice America is running a five-figure print and digital ad campaign.

BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

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Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.