Sen. Susan Collins lost another major endorsement this election cycle when the Human Rights Campaign announced Wednesday that it is backing Democrat Sara Gideon in her bid to unseat the Maine Republican.
HRC, one of the largest LGBTQ advocacy groups in the country, has thrown its support behind Collins’ reelection campaigns since 2002. But the organization said Wednesday that it could no longer do so.
“Despite Susan Collins’ record of support on certain key LGBTQ issues, her support of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump’s agenda, endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court and failure to hold Donald Trump accountable, is simply untenable,” said HRC President Alphonso David.
Gideon, who has served as Maine’s speaker of the House since 2016, will support “pro-equality leadership in the Senate,” and the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, David said. Collins is the only Republican co-sponsor of that bill.
The endorsement, first reported by the Washington Post, came a day after Gideon won Maine’s Democratic primary, handily beating progressives Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman. Collins ran uncontested in the Republican primary. Several independents are expected to be on the ballot alongside Collins and Gideon in November.
Last month, gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety announced that it was endorsing Gideon after supporting Collins in 2014. And Planned Parenthood, which endorsed Collins in 2002, declared in January that it would be backing Gideon.
“Every Mainer, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves a seat at the table in discussions about our future and I’m honored to have the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign in this race,” Gideon said in a statement.
Gideon on Wednesday called on Collins to join her in five in-person debates leading up to the general election. In response, Collins proposed a total of 16 live televised debates and suggested one of them be held as early as Wednesday night.
Asked for comment on losing HRC’s endorsement, Kevin Kelley, a spokesperson for Collins’s campaign, responded: “Sara could ask it herself if she were willing to debate tonight.”
Kelley later added, “As the HRC itself admits, this endorsement is based purely on partisan politics. It is simply a crass attempt to raise money for itself. The only thing that has changed since 2014 when HRC last endorsed Senator Collins is that she is now the lead Republican sponsor of the Equality Act, HRC’s top policy goal. This is not how you treat a friend and ally.”
Collins is facing her toughest reelection campaign yet, following a tsunami of backlash in recent years over her voting record in the Senate. Though she has positioned herself as a “pro-choice” moderate, she has voted to support Trump’s tax bill; to confirm judges who have signaled they oppose abortion, including Kavanaugh; and to acquit the president during his impeachment trial.
Gideon has amassed an enormous war chest, raking in over $23 million in donations as of last month and inheriting another nearly $4 million in crowdfunded donations raised in support of whoever would become Collins’ Democratic challenger.
Collins has raised just over $16 million this election cycle, according to the Bangor Daily News.