AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Susan Collins preached a conservative message at the Maine Republican Party convention on Friday, saying that united Republicans led by former Gov. Paul LePage could repeat her electoral success.
The Maine senator spoke on the first day of the party’s two-day convention at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday. LePage and other current candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and 2nd Congressional District challenger Liz Caruso, will speak on Saturday.
It was a display of unity from Maine Republicans looking to flip both legislative chambers and the Blaine House this year. Collins has been the party’s most successful figure recently, handily winning reelection in 2020 despite President Joe Biden also winning Maine.
The senator, who often touts bipartisanship, has at times conflicted with LePage, although he aided her during her 2020 campaign and she endorsed him this time around. She struck a stridently conservative tone in her 14-minute speech, saying Maine Democrats think “the way to move forward is to tell people how to live their lives.”
“With Paul LePage at the top of our ticket, we are going to present a great slate of candidates for the Congress, for the state House and for the state Senate,” Collins said.
Democrats were quick to note that Collins’ speech came just hours after the Republican delegates adopted a party platform that includes opposition to same-sex marriage and calls to limit teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.
Collins, who came out in support of gay marriage in 2014 when it was legal in Maine but not at the federal level, did not touch on issues related to gender or sexual orientation. She covered a range of other traditional Republican issues that were well-received by the crowd, going after Democrats on inflation, crime and immigration.
“Do you want to force Americans to wear masks on airplanes while immigrants illegally flood across our southern border unchecked?” she said, prompting a resounding no from the crowd.
Collins has had an uneasy relationship with Republican activists since her reelection bid. Some county parties censured her after her 2021 vote to convict former President Donald Trump in an impeachment trial, although the state party resoundingly rejected such a censure.
A handful of protesters outside the civic center targeted Collins’ speech, saying LePage should not want her endorsement. The Maine senator was not available for questions on Friday. But no conflict was on display on the convention floor, where Collins advised Republicans to support primary winners to ensure the party could win.
“We just have to remember that no matter whether or not your favorite candidate wins the primary, when it’s over, we need to get along,” she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect word in a quote from Susan Collins.