AP NEWS

Collins holds fundraising advantage in closely watched race

January 31, 2020 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Veteran Republican Sen. Susan Collins has a commanding fundraising advantage in her much-watched bid for reelection, according to campaign finance data released on Friday.

Collins, of Maine, has sailed to reelection in the past, but this year she’s facing a tough test as she seeks a fifth term. Democrats have used her vote in favor of appointing conservative Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018 to make the case she’s out of touch with many Mainers.

Collins has raised $10.9 million, the most by any political candidate in Maine history, according to filings made public by the campaign on Friday. Her closest challenger, Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, has raised $7.6 million.

Collins’ lead in the money race reflects her appeal with “people all across the political spectrum who appreciate her bipartisan, independent approach to problem-solving,” said Amy Abbott, Finance Director for the campaign.

Collins raised $2.3 million in the final quarter of the year and has a little less than $7.2 million on hand, the campaign said. Gideon, meanwhile, raised $3.5 million in the final three months of 2019 and has $2.77 million on hand, her campaign said.

In a statement, Gideon credited a “strong grassroots movement traveling to every corner of the state” with boosting her fundraising. She is in the midst of a primary battle for the Democratic nomination that will be settled in June, and she has a huge fundraising advantage over the other four challengers.

Gideon, who has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, must overcome activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse and travel agent Michael Bunker to win the nomination.

The next closest challenger, LaJeunesse, raised more than $600,000 in the final quarter of 2019, the campaign said. Sweet has raised more than $272,000 in total and Kidman more than $16,000 in total. The Federal Election Commission did not list filings for Bunker on Friday afternoon, and the candidate did not return a phone call.

Kidman stopped active fundraising in July and has made the influence of money in politics a focal point of the campaign.

“It is disingenuous for candidates to claim that they need millions of dollars from working and middle class people in order to fight the impact of money on the political system,” Kidman said.

The Sweet campaign considers its fundraising total “pretty good considering we’re not self-funding or raising money from billionaires, defense contractors, leadership PACs, or big polluters,” spokesman Edward Erikson said. LaJeunesse said his campaign “has a lot of momentum, and I know Maine voters aren’t going to let DC dictate who represents them in the race against Susan Collins.”