Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Waterville, Maine. Collins, who is seeking re-election, visited businesses on a campaign swing through downtown Waterville. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Two groups tied to Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate dumped a combined $10 million into an advertising blitz against Maine Sen. Susan Collins in the final week of a nationally targeted race with House Speaker Sara Gideon that has smashed state spending records.

The ad reservations of roughly $6 million from Senate Majority PAC and $4 million from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are notable because they come late in the race, but they will only be a small part of the total picture in a campaign that has seen some $170 million in spending by the candidates and outside groups during this cycle.

Gideon has narrowly outperformed Collins in public polling this year, but the fourth-term incumbent still looks to have a fighting chance even as the Democratic challenger benefits from an unprecedented wave of fundraising momentum for her party’s candidates across the country. The Maine race is among a handful of races that could determine control of the chamber.

The House speaker outraised Collins by 2.5 times as of mid-October. Not counting millions in dark-money ads against Collins early in the campaign, recorded outside spending has already crossed the $90 million mark, with Gideon benefiting from a slightly larger share of that and both parties waging war on the airwaves across Maine.

The biggest outside spender is Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC with ties to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, which had spent $25.5 million on the Maine race as of Monday, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

The new purchase from the DSCC is the caucus campaign arm’s first major expense in the race as other groups have picked up the slack. By contrast, its Republican counterpart has been the biggest spender on that side of the race, putting in $15.6 million as of Monday.

The massive level of spending in the race has led Maine’s normally cheap TV ad rates to skyrocket. For example, the DSCC is paying $100,000 for a single spot during the New England Patriots’ game against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday on WABI, a CBS affiliate that covers the Bangor market, according to federal filings. A Sunday prime-time slot in 2018 cost $3,000.

“Thanks to our incredible grassroots, we have the resources to take full advantage of our offensive opportunities and support Sara Gideon in her fight to flip this seat,” said Lauren Passalacqua, a DSCC spokesperson.

Collins spokesperson Annie Clark shot back in a statement saying national Democrats have spent two years and millions of dollars “trying to buy this seat.” She continued to hit Gideon after leaders of both political parties adjourned the Maine Legislature in mid-March as the coronavirus closed in on Maine and were not able to reach a deal to return for a special session.

“Perhaps they’re realizing that doing nothing is not a winning strategy,” Clark said.

BDN writer Jessica Piper contributed to this report.

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...