The Piscataquis County Republican Committee has become the second county Republican committee to censure Republican Sen. Susan Collins following criticism from grassroots conservatives over her vote to convict former President Donald Trump on an impeachment charge.
The committee’s April vote came about a month after the state Republican Party overwhelmingly voted against censuring the fifth-term senator for her impeachment vote. Collins was one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, all of whom have since faced censure or rebuke votes from their state parties. Most recently, a vote by the Utah Republican Party to censure Sen. Mitt Romney failed narrowly on Saturday.
As Collins starts a new six-year term, the vote shows the differences Collins has with many Maine Republicans, who have become increasingly conservative and aligned with Trump. While moderate Republicans like Collins were once common across the United States, they are now rare at the national level. Collins is currently the only Republican from New England serving in the U.S. Congress.
Such conservative voices have recently made their thoughts heard in Piscataquis County, including with a January resolution from the county commissioners condemning Gov. Janet Mills’ COVID-19 restrictions and falsely claiming that wearing masks causes respiratory disease.
Along with Collins’ impeachment vote, the censure letter notes various votes and positions Collins has taken, including her 2017 vote against partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and says she “continuously muddles her opinions and refuses to give principled stances on numerous issues when queried.” The letter cites gun control as one example.
Collins supports some gun control measures, including expanding background checks for those purchasing firearms.
Collins’ communications director, Annie Clark, said Tuesday the senator was “gratified” by the support she had received from the Republican Party, referencing the state party vote against censure. Clark said Collins’ victory in the overwhelming majority of Maine municipalities showed that she continued to have grassroots support statewide.
The Aroostook County Republican Committee sent out a similar censure of Collins in March, citing her vote to convict Trump. Collins grew up in the Aroostook County city of Caribou.
The Piscataquis letter also accuses Collins of crafting her moderate voting record to help her own career rather than the people of Maine. Collins has been widely noted for her willingness to seek compromise with Democratic members of Congress. The Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy have ranked her the most bipartisan senator eight years in a row.
By many measures, Piscataquis County is the most Republican county in Maine. It holds the highest percentage of residents enrolled with the Republican Party — nearly two-fifths of all adults.
Support for Trump is strong in the rural county. The former president beat Democrat Joe Biden by more than 25 points in 2020, Trump’s highest margin of victory of any New England county.
Officials for the Piscataquis County Republican Committee did not respond to a request for comment.