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Maine liberals vow to fight Collins after Kavanaugh decision

October 5, 2018
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Bonny Rodden, president of the board of directors of the Maine Council of Churches, speaks at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Portland, Maine, calling on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to vote against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/Patrick Whittle)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine Sen. Susan Collins said Friday she’ll vote yes on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, putting him on track for approval and dealing a blow to opponents who have flooded her office with last-minute phone calls urging her to reject him.

Collins, a moderate Republican who holds a key swing vote, said she trusts Kavanaugh to cast his own political preferences aside as a Supreme Court justice in a length speech on the Senate floor.

Liberal Maine groups vowed to give Collins a hard fight at the polls in 2020 after crowdfunding nearly $2 million that will be used for her future Democratic opponent.

“There are culture shifts in our country that she is deeply out of step with,” said Marie Follayttar, co-director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership. “We are coming after her seat.”

After watching last week’s testimony, Collins said she believes Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford is a “survivor of a sexual assault.” But the lack of corroborating evidence in Ford’s story made it so she had to maintain Kavanaugh’s “presumption of innocence,” Collins said.

Kavanaugh faces multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. He has denied allegations of sexual assault by Ford, describing them in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week as part of a political smear campaign.

Collins also voiced skepticism of liberals’ criticism of Kavanaugh, saying they believe he was “selected to do the bidding of conservative ideologues, despite his record of judicial independence.”

The state’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage and state Republic Party praised Collins’s decision. Maine Republican Party Chair Dr. Demi Kouzounas said she made the decision while facing “immense and aggressive pressure” and she “did not crack.”

A flag bearing ”#MeToo” flew atop a building around the corner from Collins’ office.

News about Kavanaugh’s nomination has been nearly inescapable in the state. Maine’s other senator, independent Angus King, reiterated Thursday he’s voting against Kavanaugh. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University said Maine is the top state in the nation for television ad spending related to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Several demonstrations took place around the state Friday, including a Maine Council of Churches news conference in Portland to oppose Kavanaugh. The council, a nonpartisan group, said it was taking the unusual step of opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

In addition to groups who traveled to D.C. to protest Collins, other demonstrations happened throughout the state including at Portland’s Monument and outside Collins’ Portland office, where some groups held a sit-in.

“The people of Maine are laying out sandbags against the flood of intemperate partisanship,” said Rev. James Gertmenian, a retired United Church of Christ minister who lives in Cumberland. “Senator Collins, don’t be part of the flood. Be part of the building of the levy to protect our democracy.”

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Associated Press writer Marina Villeneuve contributed to this report.

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