Touting 'centrist' approach, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announces she is running for a fifth term

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, officially announced Wednesday she would seek a fifth term, launching what promises to be a tough reelection fight for the moderate Republican in a rancorous political climate. 

"I promised the people of Maine a decision this fall on whether I would seek reelection," Collins said in a letter to supporters. "The fundamental question I had to ask myself in making my decision was this: In today’s polarized political environment, is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship?

"I have concluded that the answer to this question is 'yes' and I will, therefore, seek the honor of continuing to serve as Maine’s United States senator."

Though Collins, 66, was reelected in 2014 with nearly 70% of the vote, Democrats see her as one of the more vulnerable Republican senators heading into 2020, a year in which more GOP Senate seats are on the ballot than Democratic ones. 

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Maine is a purple state that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since 1992, though Donald Trump won one of its four electoral votes in 2016. But it hasn't voted for a Democratic U.S. senator since 1988. The other senator from Maine is Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. 

Four Democrats seek the nomination to take on Collins in 2020. Maine's House Speaker Sara Gideon has the party's backing and is the front-runner in the primary race against attorney Bre Kidman,  former gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and Ross LaJeunesse. 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, officially launched her bid for reelection Dec. 18, setting up an expensive and closely watched battle for the seat the moderate Republican from Maine has held for nearly 24 years.

In her letter, Collins stressed her "bipartisan, commonsense approach" and touted herself as being "ranked the most bipartisan member of the Senate."

As evidence of the effectiveness of her approach, Collins pointed to her legislative accomplishments, such as working with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., on repealing the "widow's tax" on the surviving spouses of service members. 

Though she did not mention Trump in her letter, Collins has demonstrated her independence by objecting to the tone of some of the president's attacks on his opponents, criticizing his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and voting to block Trump's declaration of a national immigration emergency to divert funds toward the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. 

She supported the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Trump's tax cut the year before that. Her vote for Kavanaugh particularly rankled Democrats. A crowdfunding campaign aimed at her defeat was generated in response to her Kavanagh vote and raised more than $4 million. 

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The Democratic-controlled House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on Trump's impeachment, which is likely to be approved before heading to the Senate for a trial. Collins has not said how she would vote in such a trial, citing the need to remain impartial because she will be acting as a juror. 

"To say that these are difficult and contentious times is most certainly an understatement," Collins said in her letter, citing the Allied victory in World War II in light of the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. 

“That generation found ways to solve the challenges of their era, and I believe that we can as well.  My commitment to you remains strong, and I am as determined as ever to keep bringing people together, to speak out for the values that unite our great country, and to deliver results for Maine and America," Collins said. 

Contributing: Joey Garrison, USA TODAY; The Associated Press