Democrat hopes for big upset in Maine Senate race
March 3rd, 2014
02:22 PM ET
6 months ago

Democrat hopes for big upset in Maine Senate race

Updated 3:56 p.m. ET, 3/3/2014

Washington (CNN) – National Democrats are focusing on states like Kentucky and Georgia to fend off a furious effort by Republicans to retake the Senate.

But Shenna Bellows thinks Maine may hold upset potential for her party, so much so that she's running and having some success recently with fundraising.

Although conventional political wisdom concludes otherwise, the liberal Democrat believes incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins is beatable this November.

"I think there are exciting indicators of success here," Bellows told CNN in a recent interview in Washington.

She sees a Republican Party split between libertarians in the Rand Paul mold and those who felt left out of the last presidential race.

They "really feel like Republicans, including Susan Collins, have lost their way on this idea of smaller government and less government intrusion in peoples' private lives," she said.

Collins is running for her fourth term and is not considered vulnerable heading into November's election. She is viewed as a moderate in Washington where the Republican Party has shifted sharply right in recent years.

She beat Democrat Tom Allen by a nearly 2-1 margin last time around, but faces a primary challenge this year from conservative Erick Bennett.

Still, two of the top non-partisan political handicappers, the Rothenberg Political Report and the Cook Political Report, both as of now consider Collins safe as she bids for re-election.

But Maine is a blue state that supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and the only state this year where an incumbent Republican is defending a seat in a Democratic-leaning state.

Bellows, the only Democrat in the race, stakes her campaign on positions opposing government surveillance, and supporting marijuana legalization and more environmental protections.

Environmental politics are important in Maine, which is mostly rural and famous for its scenic rocky seacoast and its woodlands. Tourism is a major industry.

Maine's unemployment rate was slightly below the national average at the start of the year.

Bellows is Collins' only Democratic challenger and says the incumbent senator isn't as moderate as she's perceived.

"She's been anchored by her party and she has been inconsistent with some of her votes," Bellows said.

Bellows said votes by Collins favoring the Keystone XL pipeline and against an extension of federal unemployment insurance and raising the debt ceiling are examples of how the she is not aligned with Maine voters.

Bellows' campaign narrowly outpaced Collins' in fundraising last quarter, bringing in $331,000 to the Republican's $315,000. But she lags well behind in cash raised overall, and is also facing a significant deficit in the polls.

Seventy percent of Maine voters didn't know who she was in a poll taken soon after she formally launched her candidacy in October.

Bellows, a former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, attributes her fundraising success to mobilizing grassroots support.

Following her strong fundraising quarter, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee endorsed her candidacy, calling her the "Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties."

Warren is a freshman Democratic senator from Massachusetts who is popular with liberals.

Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party). But they are defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs in November.

Half the seats Democrats are defending are in red or purple states, and Republicans need to pick up six seats and hold onto the ones they have to retake control of the chamber.

Collins' campaign bolstered the Republican's solid standing across the political spectrum in Maine.

"Senator Collins remains focused on the job that Mainers elected her to do," spokesman Kevin Kelley said, underscoring her work to create jobs as well as her support of legislation to increase oversight of NSA activities.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee batted down Bellows' chances against Collins, insisting that the Democrat is too liberal for Maine voters.

"Angus King said that Susan Collins is ferocious on behalf of her constituents, and he's one hundred percent right. Susan Collins is a strong, independent woman, and an effective legislator who always puts Mainers first," spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said.

"If the Daily Kos declares statehood, Shenna Bellows would fit in well, but in Maine she's way too far outside the mainstream for independent minded voters."


Filed under: Maine
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    Right about now, I think republicans will talk about term limits for Collins. She really does not add much to the senate.

    March 3, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. Tony in Maine

    Shenna Bellows might have a good shot at gaining the seat that Allen missed taking IF the msm would stop using the term bipartisan moderate to describe a conservative sock puppet.

    Collins votes with McConnell when she is told to. If the Minority Leader needs her vote to block an Obama initiative, she is in Mitch's pocket. Collins votes with the Democrats on issues where she is not needed and where she can boost her "moderate credentials" with Mainers by a meaningless vote to seem bipartisan. Collins then uses the bipartisan label the same way Guiliani used 9/11 – a noun, a verb and ... .

    March 3, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  3. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Let sanity prevail. Now More Republicans!

    March 3, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  4. bcrunner

    Even though she is a moderate, she moves to the right on way too many votes... That said, I would rather we go after someone else...like Cruz... but we all know that is an impossible task..

    March 3, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Gunderson

    So,
    If you are into more Food Stamps, never ending unemployment benefits, continuing welfare payments, Liberal Democrats is your bag. Now take Fiscal responsibility, who needs it. If all those Military come back to civilian life, you can add a few thousand to the Food Stamps rolls. Smart Politics, no?

    March 3, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    I don't think ANY GOP is SAFE in November do to THIER party's TOTAL INCOMPETENCE and OBSTRUCTION OF EVERYTHING that would help the economy and the American people!!!!!!!!!!!!!'

    March 3, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    "If the Daily Kos declares statehood, Shenna Bellows would fit in well, but in Maine she's way too far outside the mainstream for independent minded voters."
    -------------------------
    Wow. Republicans like to talk like this a lot. Cynical one-liners that mock and stereotype their opponent's character. An actual discussion of the relevant issues never seems to be the first option. Option one is always character assassination, and destroying your opponent's credibility.

    March 3, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. it must be said

    Desperate, desperate Democrats.... trying desperately to stop the oncoming slaughter in November for the destruction of our healthcare system and this miserable economy.

    March 3, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. Chris-E...al

    V0te Democrate and waste a good V0te ! D0NT waste your vote on a Jinxed Democrate! Remember they made your healthcare go up ATLEAST 30 percent !

    March 3, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. Stuffitu

    The way the democrat liberal "progressives" have handled our foreign nf domestic policies nf the destruction of this country, we can only hope they lose every seat and that the most inept, incompetent, corrupt president in ou history is jailed.

    March 3, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    -it must be said

    Desperate, desperate Democrats.... trying desperately to stop the oncoming slaughter in November for the destruction of our healthcare system and this miserable economy.
    ***************************************
    And what is the GOP doing to help people? Nothing. The GOP wants to win by default, by making conditions so bad and so unmanageable that you will forget their shoddy handling of the economy when they ran every facet of the federal government for 6 years and give them another opportunity to help you subsidize millionaires at the expense of your children. No one is embraxcing the GOP, except in the feverish minds of the true believers.

    March 3, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    -"If the Daily Kos declares statehood, Shenna Bellows would fit in well, but in Maine she's way too far outside the mainstream for independent minded voters."

    The GOP detests independent-minded voters, referring to them as RINOS when they show the slightest trace of independent thought. They will spend every waking minute after the election damning Susan Collins for not toeing the line on every single issue. What unbelieveable hypocrisy.

    March 3, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. smith

    Since Collins did well during the 2012 national election its hard imagine she is at risk for the 2014 mid-terms. The GOP took the house in 2010 & kept it in 2012 due to poor democrat voter turn out.

    March 3, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. tom l

    @The Real TP,

    Ummmm, you don't think dems do that too? Look at what liberals say about joe Lieberman. Dems and repubs BOTH castrate anyone that doesn't toe the company line.

    March 3, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  15. Abbey

    When Democrats stand behind the worse law in recent memory called Obamacare hits full force, you won't be able to find them as an effective party never more.

    March 3, 2014 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    -Stuffitu

    The way the democrat liberal "progressives" have handled our foreign nf domestic policies nf the destruction of this country, we can only hope they lose every seat and that the most inept, incompetent, corrupt president in ou history is jailed.
    ************************************
    Its apparent that WiredWierdinSF has hit his stride again with pointless rants that prove nothing except his need to restock his meds. Keep hoping junior: you have a better shot at winning the lottery than that fantasy coming true.

    March 3, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. don in albuquerque

    Gunderson

    Blah, blah, woof, woof. Same song, 23 verse. Can't you come up with anything original. Why not elaborate again on how you have lived through three world wars, and two sheep shearing.

    March 3, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. king

    Collin is the only sane repub, but she move with the repubs on critical votes. the american people are set to accept world war III, when they put these repubs in office. we are pushing to the end of the world, with America and the EU on one side and Russia and China on the the other side, world war III will be around the corner. when was the last time a repub was in power and America wasn't fighting a war. the people of America has been wood winkled with the rubbish the repubs have been pushing for the past 6 years and now are on the presipit of distinction.

    March 3, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. Rick McDaniel

    Democrats are going to do major damage, wherever they are elected.

    March 3, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |