Collins feels tug of Maine throughout decision-making process
WASHINGTON (NEWS CENTER) — In the midst of an often tumultuous political climate, Sen. Susan Collins is weighing a decision that will have statewide and national implications.
For months, Sen. Collins has mulled over whether to run for governor next year and leave the Senate, with two years remaining in her term, or stay.
NEWS CENTER on Thursday traveled to Washington D.C. to speak to Collins about the decision process.
Collins, who admitted she is ordinarily a decisive person, said this decision has been challenging.
"One of my colleagues who is trying to get me to stay in the Senate told me I am the pivotal player on a lot of important issues," Collins said at her Washington office in the midst of a packed schedule, juggling votes on the Hill and a hearing on the drug crisis.
"The issues in Washington right now are big issues ranging from healthcare and the opioid crisis to North Korea and the Russian investigation," she said. "We're about to go into a debate on tax reform. I'm involved in all of those issues."
The decision is further complicated by her prominence. Serving since 1997, Collins is ranked 15th in the Senate. She also serves as one of the few moderate Republicans willing to work with those on both sides of the aisle.
Collins has been not a stranger to criticism from her own party either, voting against major legislation like the repeal of Obamacare.
"I know there are people on both ends of the political spectrum that aren't happy with me," Collins said. "That's what happens when you are in the center. There are going to be people who aren't pleased with your vote or your positions."
That opposition adds to the appeal of working in a hands-on capacity as governor. Collins also said it could be beneficial on a personal level.
"I really love being in Maine," she said. "Going back and forth each week is difficult, and my family and friends are in Maine. I believe I could make a difference and job creation and economic opportunity in our state."
NEWS CENTER also spoke to her colleague Sen. Angus King, who said he hopes Collins stays in Washington. But having served as governor and senator himself, he understands the appeal of both jobs.
"Governor is a lot more satisfying in the sense of being able to have a direct impact on policy, to have the bully pulpit, all of that, all of that makes the job," King said in his D.C. office. "I don't know if I would say fun, but it makes it more rewarding."
"Here is much more frustrating," he said. "On the other hand, here you're dealing with issues at the very highest level."
The big question: Who would fill Collins' seat? She was quick to point out that Gov. Paul LePage might not have a say, despite him being outspoken on the matter.
"There is a scenario under which, if the timing works out, that I would be able to tap my replacement," Collins said.
If she chose to run, Collins claimed she would not have a problem juggling the campaign trail while still serving in Washington.
"It would be a challenge, but I'm sure I could do it," she said. "Ask anyone who knows me, and knows that I work extremely hard and that I would work night and day to make sure that I was not neglecting my duties as a senator."
Despite the field of candidates widening and the clock ticking, Collins is confident that if she did choose to run she could win.
"Suffice it to say that while I never take any election for granted, and always work so hard to win the confidence and a vote of the people of Maine, I'm in a very good position," she said. "I feel confident that I could conduct a winning race, both in a primary and the general election."
Collins said the decision is also a very personal one. She said her family is even torn on the issue. Her husband has been very supportive, but her mother has recommended she stay in the Senate.
She told us she plans to talk with family over the holiday weekend and a final decision is likely to come late next week.