Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) launched a blistering attack against her Democratic opponent Sara Gideon as the campaign enters its final month before the election.
Collins, a moderate Republican in the Senate, let loose against Gideon, a state representative and speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, in an interview with Politico published on Wednesday. Collins and Gideon are in a tight race in one of a handful may determine control of the Senate next year.
“She will say or do anything to try to win,” Collins said of Gideon. “This race is built on a foundation of falsehoods. And trying to convince the people of Maine that somehow I am no longer the same person.”
Collins accused Gideon of “defaming my reputation and attacking my integrity” and characterized the statehouse speaker as a tool of the Democratic establishment in Washington. Collins has a noted independent streak and has voted against President Trump on several key issues such as her vote to save the Affordable Care Act and her votes against several of Trump’s cabinet appointments.
Still, Gideon has attempted to tie Collins to Trump in a state where the president is polling double-digits behind Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, according to Real Clear Politics polling average. The U.S. Senate race is much closer, though Collins trails Gideon by 3.7 points according to Real Clear Politics.
“Senator Collins’ votes for 181 of Trump’s far-right judicial nominees, for the corporate tax giveaway that put Mainers’ health care in jeopardy and her continued refusal to stand up to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump show just how much she’s changed after 24 years in Washington,” Gideon spokeswoman Maeve Coyle said in a statement. “Her desperate, misleading attacks on Sara make clear that she’s willing to do anything to stay there.”
Collins asserted that Gideon was a newcomer to Maine and lacked a complete understanding of the state. Collins was born and raised in Maine whereas Gideon was born and raised in Rhode Island.
“I grew up in Caribou, I’ve lived in Bangor for 26 years. My family’s been in Maine for generations. She’s been in Maine for about 15 years and lives in Freeport,” Collins said. “That’s a big difference in our knowledge of the state.”
Gideon has faced attacks throughout the campaign over her handling of sexual assault allegations made against a former state lawmaker. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released its latest ad attacking Gideon over the scandal on Tuesday.
Former Maine lawmaker Dillon Bates allegedly sexually abused several of his students when he was a teacher at the Maine Girls Academy. Gideon heard of the allegations after he became a state lawmaker and approached Bates about them, but did not take action against him until the allegations were published in a news article on Aug. 3, 2018. Gideon then called for his resignation.
“Sara’s own spokesperson conceded that Sara had known about this for a long time. And actually said that Sara told Dillon Bates that, should [the scandal] become public, he would have to go,” Collins said. “Now, why, whether or not it became public would be the triggering event, and why she didn’t ask for an investigation, are legitimate issues.”
Gideon has launched an ad defending her conduct in the Bates scandal. In a July ad released by her campaign, Gideon says, “I knew there would be false attacks when I ran for Senate, but the ads on air for Susan Collins right now go too far. The truth is, I was the first person to call on the State Representative to resign when evidence of misconduct was revealed. And as the mother of two sons and one daughter, I value our children’s safety more than anything else. To suggest otherwise is not only false, it’s way over the line.”
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