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The increasing political polarization and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., is disheartening to most Americans. So, Maine is fortunate to have a history of bipartisan lawmakers who often put party affiliation aside to help the Pine Tree State and the country.
Sen. Susan Collins, who is seeking a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, is one of those lawmakers. And, she deserves to be reelected. Put another way, she deserves your first-place ranking in this election, the first U.S. Senate race to be decided by ranked-choice voting.
In a recent example of her willingness to buck her party leadership and to make the right decision, Collins is one of only two Republican senators who said they would oppose a Supreme Court nominee from Donald Trump before the November election. Waiting to see who is elected president, as Republicans demanded in 2016, is the consistent and fair thing to do, Collins said late last month.
On Tuesday, Collins criticized the president for calling for an end to congressional negotiations over a much-needed relief bill to help workers and families, businesses, states and towns make it through the continuing coronavirus-related economic slow down. Late Tuesday night, Trump said the negotiations should continue.
Collins has similarly broken ranks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on other issues, including to vote against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to retain Obama-era rules for power plant pollution, as well as some Trump judicial and cabinet nominees.
Before this era of extreme gridlock, Collins was often at the center of efforts to compromise on legislation as diverse as a stimulus bill to soften the 2008 recession to bills to reduce emissions and address climate change to ending the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to a rewriting of American intelligence laws after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She is often the only Republican to support measures backed by Democrats, which frustrates members of her own party but is a sign of working with others to get things done.
With a potential Democratic White House, we envision many more opportunities for similar compromises to move forward with needed legislation on health care, energy, the environment and many other issues.
As the Republican Senate caucus has moved to the right in an era when political loyalty is too often valued over good policymaking, Collins has remained the most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate and votes for policies supported by President Donald Trump the least often of any Republican in Congress.
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But, on balance, Collins is a hardworking, moderate representative of Maine’s people and values.
In addition, seniority matters in the Senate. Collins is poised to either chair the powerful Appropriations Committee or be its ranking member, depending on whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate. In this role, she would continue to ensure federal funding for vital Maine projects, including alternative energy development, transportation infrastructure and health care, including opioid addiction.
Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and a Democrat, is a smart and serious lawmaker. She has brokered some difficult compromises, including with former Gov. Paul LePage to fund state government, and also built bipartisan coalitions to go around the recalcitrant former governor, namely on the pressing problems of opioid addiction and energy diversity.
Gideon’s work on improving access to affordable, comprehensive health care, reducing poverty while growing the state’s workforce and paid leave has improved Maine, especially for some of the state’s most vulnerable people.
The House Republican caucus has been especially difficult during her tenure as speaker. However, the inability of Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson to find a way to reconvene the Legislature during the COVID-19 pandemic, even with the recognition that Republicans declined both chances to return to work in Augusta, is a particular failing. Gov. Janet Mills has ably guided the state through the pandemic, but the Legislature has largely abdicated its oversight obligations by remaining out of session.
Gideon’s stances on health care, climate change and other Democratic priorities are appealing, but a freshman senator is unlikely to have much sway no matter what party controls the U.S. Senate.
Independent Lisa Savage, a teacher, has brought common sense and solid policy proposals to this race. Her grassroots campaign relying only on small donations has been largely drowned out by the expensive and nasty ads run by national political parties and political action committees both for and against Collins and Gideon. That is a shame. Depending on your alignment with Savage’s priorities, she’s certainly worthy of a second or third-place ranking.
The same cannot be said of the other independent in the race. Max Linn disqualified himself from serious consideration with his debate performances in which he cut up face masks and refused to answer questions from moderators.
Maine voters face a choice of two strong lawmakers on the November ballot. We recommend ranking Susan Collins first.