Independent U.S. Senate candidate Tiffany Bond speaks to the Bangor Daily News editorial board in this 2018 file photo. She is suing Maine over virus restrictions that she argues are keeping her off the 2020 ballot. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

An unenrolled U.S. Senate candidate filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday saying that the restrictions imposed by Maine Gov. Janet Mills during the coronavirus pandemic should make the signature collection requirement for candidates unconstitutional.

Tiffany Bond, a Portland lawyer who received 6 percent of the vote in the 2nd District congressional election in 2018, is hoping to be among the candidates challenging Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, in November. Her last campaign was most notable for Bond’s refusal to raise money to instead urge people to back charities, teachers and local businesses.

Unenrolled candidates are required to collect 4,000 valid signatures by July 1 in order to appear on the ballot. Her campaign began collecting signatures earlier this year but was forced to largely halt those efforts due to the outbreak.

Daisy Sauvageau of Waterville said she collected 123 signatures for Bond on March 3 but stopped collecting due to safety concerns, according to an affidavit. When she resumed by going door to door in May, she found voters were afraid and she was only able to collect one signature.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court argues that the public health measures put in place to combat the outbreak make it overly difficult for candidates without significant financial means to collect signatures.

“The Governor’s emergency orders effectively shutting down the State of Maine renders the in-person collection of signatures on nomination petitions unlawful and functionally impossible absent extraordinary economic and organizing resources beyond the normal means of independent candidates,” the suit says.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, Gov. Janet Mills, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, are all named as defendants in the suit.

Any independent candidates will join Collins and the winner of the Democratic primary, which is set to take place on July 14. Gideon is considered the favorite in a three-way contest against progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet and Saco lawyer Bre Kidman.

At least one unenrolled candidate, Lisa Savage, is likely to appear on the ballot in November. Savage, a former candidate for the Green party, collected enough signatures in early March, before the coronavirus pandemic reached Maine. Max Linn, a pro-Trump conservative who was disqualified from the 2018 Republican U.S. Senate primary, is also trying to qualify.