Sara Gideon, Democratic speaker of the Maine House, speaks at a rally for striking Bath Iron Works shipbuilders, Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Bath, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The Maine State Council of Machinists endorsed House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, for U.S. Senate, her campaign announced Friday, after previously backing incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican in 2014.

The council has about 5,000 members, and its affiliates include two unions at Bath Iron Works. Collins is among a small group of Republican politicians who has picked up endorsements from unions in the past, but several that backed her in 2014 indicated skepticism about her 2020 run last year, citing issues including Collins’ vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

Both Collins and Gideon have visited striking workers at BIW in recent weeks, where the Local S6 strike over a new contract has lasted more than a month. The council singled out Gideon’s support for the striking workers on Friday, with President Mark Vigliotta saying her actions “speak volumes about her dedication to working men and women.”

Gideon has picked up endorsements from unions including the Maine AFL-CIO, which usually endorses Democrats, as well as the Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers District Council and the Painters and Allied Trades International Union District Council 35, both of which previously endorsed Collins.

In a statement, the Democrat said she will “continue to support the workers of Local S6 in their effort to secure a fair contract” and “stand up for Maine’s hardworking families in Washington.” The striking union has not yet taken its endorsement vote in the Senate race.

Collins noted that she was the first Republican to be endorsed by the council, whose leaders are “reverting back to their traditional behavior.” She said she will “continue to be a strong and effective advocate” for workers in a statement.

Other endorsers that have flipped from Collins to Gideon include other groups that typically endorse Democrats, such as the LGBTQ-rights Human Rights Campaign and Everytown for Gun Safety. 

The race is one of the most high-profile 2020 campaigns in the country and also will include independents Max Linn and Lisa Savage.