Ranked-choice voting didn’t come into play in Sen. Collins re-election in Maine

  • Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Bangor, Maine, after Tuesday's election. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

Published: 11/4/2020 4:43:35 PM
Modified: 11/4/2020 4:43:25 PM

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine won the hardest-fought race of her career, turning back a challenge by Democrat Sara Gideon and winning a narrow majority in the costliest political race in state history.

The outcome, announced on Wednesday, a day after voting ended, gave the 67-year-old incumbent a fifth term in office and dealt another blow to Democrats' hopes for taking control of the GOP-led U.S. Senate.

Speaking as Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” played, Collins thanked Gideon, the 48-year-old speaker of the Maine House, for a “gracious” concession.

“To the people of Maine, thank you. I will serve you with all my heart. I will work hard for you each and every day. And together, we will come together to work on the problems and challenges that are facing our state and our country,” Collins told supporters in Bangor.

In Portland, Gideon thanked her supporters in a video address that was transmitted live, but without reporters being present.

“While we came up short, I do believe Mainers in every corner of this state are ready to continue to work together to make a difference,” Gideon said Wednesday during the speech.

Republican incumbents proved resilient after tough reelection campaigns, with senators like Collins and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham triumphing over well-funded challengers. The only two Republican incumbents to go down so far are in Colorado and Arizona.

In Maine, the Senate race was the most expensive political race in state history by far, with Gideon raising nearly $70 million, more than double the $27 million that Collins raised. But that didn’t include millions of dollars of so-called dark money. All told, more than $120 million was spent by both candidates and their allies on advertising.

Collins, one of four candidates on the ballot, won a slim majority of first-place votes, collecting about 51%. That meant no additional tabulation rounds were necessary under Maine’s ranked choice voting system.

Republicans cast Gideon as a wealthy liberal and a risky choice while Collins touted herself as a centrist who’s willing to work with both parties. Collins also highlighted her ability to get things done, pointing to the Paycheck Protection Program — for which she was lead author — as helping businesses during the pandemic.

Gideon, meanwhile, tried to link Collins with President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while pressing her message that Collins cares more about her party than Mainers.

Gideon, originally from Rhode Island, moved to Freeport, Maine, 15 years ago. She has ascended quickly into politics and was elected to the Legislature in 2012 after serving on the Freeport Town Council.

Collins is a native of Maine, raised in Caribou, where she picked potatoes as a kid, and touted her familiarity with Maine’s unique issues.

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