Collins’ anti-Trump pronouncement shakes up Maine GOP

Good morning from Augusta, where U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ refusal to back Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was still shaking up Republican politics early Wednesday.

No big-name Maine Republican was directly criticizing the moderate senator for her stand against the billionaire, though her Facebook page was being bombarded with both positive and negative messages from around the country about her Washington Post op-ed published late Monday.

It isn’t hard to see why Republicans weren’t taking her on.

Collins is Maine’s most popular politician – registering 73 percent approval in a June poll from the Portland Press Herald. She has also never been reliant on the Republican fringe for her support, with a 2013 poll saying she did better with Democrats than Republicans.

Her move made some key Trump-backing Republicans defend their support, including Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, who led Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Maine campaign, but now is helping the nominee as an emissary between Maine’s grassroots and establishment.

Mason told WVOM on Wednesday that a main issue for him is control of the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump has promised to pick conservative justices, which is a plus to the evangelical voters he struggled to woo in the Maine caucuses.

“I would rather have a President Trump deciding who’s on that court” than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Mason said.

But Collins’ pronouncement also emboldened other party moderates to speak out.

Former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, who has stepped back from politics since he lost the 2014 primary in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, tweeted that it was “ironic that angry Trumpers berate” Collins “for not endorsing one R nominee after Trump’s lifetime of support and $ for D nominees.”

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, was also on WVOM on Wednesday defending his anti-Trump stance after a Friday op-ed outlining his opposition to Trump in the Portland Press Herald and sister papers. He said the Republican Party can “learn” from his nomination and “come back stronger.”

Trump still has much of Maine’s party establishment behind him, including Gov. Paul LePage, perhaps his most important endorser here. But as he looks to challenge Clinton in Maine this year, it’s clear that he has work to do in his own party. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • LePage returned to energy policy — a favorite topic — in his weekly radio address on Tuesday. The governor continued his long-running feud with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, hitting lawmakers for a long-term rejection of hydropower and an embrace of credits for renewable sources that is “making it harder for companies to compete in Maine.”
  • The Maine Republican Party accidentally sent an email seeking Clean Elections checks for a Democrat. Calling it “a critical step in stopping Maine [Democrats’] liberal tax-and-spend agenda,” the party sent a fundraising email to people in Milford saying “the Republican running in your district, Bob Duchesne, needs to collect more checks from registered voters within your local Maine House of Representatives district.” The problem? Rep. Bob Duchesne of Hudson is a Democrat. He’s facing Republican Gary Drinkwater of Milford in 2016. On Wednesday, Maine GOP spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin called it “an error that has already been corrected.”
  • A Mainer has made a political committee supporting Trump. “Making America Great Again, LLC” was registered with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday by Julie Anne Sheehan of Cape Elizabeth. She ran for a delegate spot at the state Republican convention earlier this year, describing herself as “a lifelong Republican and a single mother, raising three children in Southern Maine” who wants “a nation my children inherit to reflect the values that have made us great.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • What’s his name? A owner is not enthused by their “dumb idiot cat” named “Nolla, Nala, or something” who ran away from home near Sebago Lake. He “may or may not respond” to his name. There’s a $20 reward.
  • And if she doesn’t have piercings?: “We will have so much you will want for nothing,” a man says to Nicole from Waterville. “I think about your tats and if you have piercings, you are one of a kind girl and I would give everything to have you in my arms.” — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.