EMILY’s List backs Sara Gideon to take on Maine Sen. Susan Collins

State house speaker is one of several women running for the Democratic nomination

Maine Sen. Susan Collins picked up a high-profile Democratic challenger, who now has the support of EMILY’s List. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

EMILY’s List is endorsing Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, the day after the Democrat announced her challenge to Republican incumbent Susan Collins

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee followed, backing Gideon about an hour later. 

Gideon is one of several women running for the Democratic nomination in Maine. But the endorsement from the pro-abortion rights group signals she will be well-funded in the primary and, if she succeeds, in the general election against one of the Senate’s most vulnerable GOP incumbents this cycle.

“Sara Gideon is a proven leader and dedicated public servant who will be an excellent U.S. senator,” EMILY’s President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement, while also accusing Collins of “consistently [voting] against the best interests of Maine’s women and families.”

Betsy Sweet, a former director of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Commission for Women, announced her Senate campaign last week and quickly earned the backing of Democracy For America. Sweet ran for governor in 2018, but finished third in the seven-way Democratic primary. She used public financing in that election, leading some national Democrats to question how she could be competitive in this race. Lawyer Bre Kidman is also seeking the Democratic nod for Senate.

EMILY’s List, which backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, has ties to Maine. It’s executive director, Emily Cain, twice ran for the 2nd District and served in the state House and Senate. 

Gideon, who’s been in the state House since 2012, launched her candidacy Monday with a two-and-a-half-minute video that doesn’t mention Collins until close to the two-minute mark. The Democrat spends most of the video highlighting her own successes, even holding up a picture of controversial former Gov. Paul R. LePage to talk about how she overrode his veto. 

Collins’ approval rating in the Pine Tree State has dipped in recent months, but she remains a well-liked incumbent who will be hard to beat. First elected in 1996, she’s won three subsequent re-elections by double digits, including races against highly touted Democratic opponents. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Republican.

“The Democrats have a yearlong competitive primary ahead — they will not be picking a nominee until June of 2020,” Collins campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley said in a statement Monday. 

“One of the reasons why Sen. Collins has been so effective is that she has more seniority than any U.S. senator from Maine over the past 70 years.  She will continue to build on her record of extraordinary accomplishments for the people of Maine,” he added.

The Democratic nominee will benefit from millions of dollars in a Crowdpac fund that activists have amassed for Collins’ eventual challenger since she announced her support for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation last fall. Collins ended the first fundraising quarter of the year with $3.9 million in the bank.

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