PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon beat two other Democrats on Tuesday for the right to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in a race that’s critical to the battle for control of the Senate.
Gideon, who’s raised a staggering $23 million in her Senate bid, turned back challenges by activist Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman.
Gideon is poised to further increase her haul: Her victory entitles her to $3.7 million from a crowdsourced fund for Collins’ challenger that was established during the Senate fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation. Democrats were furious over Collins’ vote in favor of Kavanaugh.
Collins has raised $16 million. The four-term senator is a household name in the state with a reputation for independence but Democrats are hoping to topple her over her critical 2018 support for Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s controversial appointee.
Gideon received early backing from the Democratic establishment, securing an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and kept a laser focus on Collins, much to the chagrin of her challengers.
Kidman and Sweet criticized the Washington influence and said Gideon’s vow to take money out of politics rang hollow as her own money grew into the biggest haul of any political candidate in Maine history.
The coronavirus pandemic didn’t slow fundraising for a pivotal race for Democrats seeking to take control of the Senate. Gideon raised $9 million in the last quarter, extending her fundraising advantage over Collins.
Democrats need to gain at least three seats to capture Senate control. Republicans are defending 25 of the 38 seats in play, even as Trump’s deteriorating standing in the polls jeopardizes GOP candidates around the country. With Collins widely considered one of the GOP’s most endangered Senate incumbents, her reelection would narrow Democrats’ pathway to wresting control of the chamber.