Report: Collins fears primary challenge based on guns

Those of us who follow Maine politics have tended to dismiss the idea that there could be a primary challenge to Senator Susan Collins.

However, in an article about how proposed laws on guns are dividing the political parties, the New York Times reports that the senator voiced concerns about such a challenge.

The Republican conflict came to the fore last week during a closed-door luncheon for Senate Republicans, when Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, eyes blazing, stood up and complained about a series of attack ads that she was facing back home from a gun-rights group with deep ties to Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.

Ms. Collins, who faces re-election next year, said the gun ads were an example of the kind of internal Republican warfare that has hindered the party in Senate races the last two elections. She supports the amendments and other components of the new gun regulations legislation, and she released a lengthy statement on Sunday explaining her thinking.

Her comments, according to several Republican aides, ignited a tense debate, similar to many the party has faced since its loss in the race for the White House last year. Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, stood to say he had been raising money for Ms. Collins’ re-election, only to watch her have to spend it to defend herself against the attack from the gun group, which has been directed at other members as well.

Ms. Collins warned her colleagues that if she loses a primary to a strong opponent with gun-rights credentials, it could well cost the party her seat.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a freshman ally of Mr. Paul’s, jumped in to promise he had nothing to do with the group, according to officials briefed on the event. Then Mr. Paul, feeling attacked, stormed out. (A spokeswoman for Mr. Paul did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Frankly, it seems hard to imagine which Maine Republican would challenge Senator Collins and how they could defeat this well-financed incumbent with high approval ratings among the state’s fall electorate.

Then again, in 2010 and 2012 some Republicans quite popular in their states lost primaries to tea party Republicans. Many of those primary victors went on to lose what had been seats Republicans could have held or gained.

But, if this account is accurate, Senator Collins thinks a primary challenge is a possibility. Indeed, if it’s accurate, the senator believes it’s a possibility she could lose a primary.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.