Sen. Susan Collins’ vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite the allegations of sexual misconduct against him and his anti-abortion views, enraged Democrats and women’s rights advocates nationwide.
A year later, the Maine Republican is boasting about her key role in securing his spot on the bench to raise money for her 2020 reelection campaign.
“Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is yet again under attack by the Far Left,” stated a Collins fundraising email sent Sept. 19. “The Far Left is so determined to further their political agenda, they won’t hesitate to ruin someone’s life in the process.”
“While Justice Kavanaugh is in their crosshairs, they are also targeting me. That’s why I need your help right now,” the email continued with a link to donate to her campaign, which she has not yet formally announced.
Kavanaugh was sworn in as Supreme Court justice on Oct. 6, 2018, just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him 50-48. Less than two weeks earlier, Christine Blasey Ford testified before Congress that Kavanaugh, when they were both teenagers in high school, sexually assaulted her at a party.
She said he locked her in a room, climbed on top of her and attempted to remove her clothes as his friend watched. Kavanaugh and the friend laughed as he pinned her down and covered her mouth so she couldn’t scream, Ford testified.
She was able to escape but the alleged assault caused emotional stress for years, Ford said. Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, accused Kavanaugh of thrusting his penis in her face during a college party.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.
Collins was generally considered one of three swing votes in Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The others were Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted “present,” and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), the only Democrat to vote in favor of Kavanaugh.
After several days of hemming and hawing, and hundreds of sexual assault survivors and their allies converging on Capitol Hill to protest Kavanaugh, Collins announced on the Senate floor that she would cast her vote in his favor, thereby cementing his seat on the Supreme Court.
Her vote drew instant outrage from women’s rights activists and Maine Democrats who had previously supported Collins, a self-proclaimed pro-choice moderate they believed would break from the rest of the Republican Party on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Within weeks, a crowdfunding campaign raised millions of dollars toward whoever would nab the Democratic nomination in the race to unseat Collins in 2020.
Several Democrats have announced campaigns, including Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon; attorney Bre Kidman; and Betsy Sweet, a women’s rights lobbyist and a former Maine gubernatorial candidate. Two independents ― Tiffany Bond and Danielle VanHelsing ― have also launched bids.
Despite the backlash, Collins’ pivotal vote also proved lucrative to her own campaign. She raised more money in the months following Kavanaugh’s confirmation than she’s raised in any other quarter her entire career, though the vast majority of the contributions came from out-of-state donors.
In another recent fundraising email, Collins’ campaign lamented the culture created by the “radical left” that made Republican students “afraid” to express their views on college campuses.
“This fear comes from the same type of bullying the left sent my way after my vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh,” according to the email sent Sept. 16. “Please donate today to help me fight back against the radical left.”
A direct mailer, also sent by Collins’ campaign in September, dubbed her vote to confirm Kavanaugh as “the right thing to do” and warned that “far left extremists” were out for revenge.
“Casting that vote unleashed a hornets’ nest of stinging attack ads and more are on the way,” the campaign wrote. “I’m asking for your help ... I really need it now.”
To compliment her campaign mailers, Collins attended a lavish fundraiser on Oct. 2 in Orange County, California, that hailed her as the “hero of the Kavanaugh confirmation.”
Asked about the fundraising technique, a spokesman for her campaign told HuffPost in an email: “Opponents raised $2 million to try and buy Senator Collins’ vote, and they have since raised at least $2 million more off ‘the Kavanaugh vote,’ so this line of criticism doesn’t even pass the straight face test.”
Her Democratic challengers are also shining a light on her Kavanaugh vote, hoping to mobilize the Mainers still feeling betrayed by Collins a year later.
“Susan Collins still says she doesn’t regret her vote to confirm him,” stated a fundraising email for Gideon’s campaign sent Oct. 6. “She even said she was ‘sad’ that her support for Kavanaugh cost her votes.”
“Well we’re sad too,” the email continued. “Sad that we have a Senator who puts Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump before Mainers. But we have a chance to change that.”
This story has been updated with comment from Collins’ campaign.