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Outside group attacks Maine’s Susan Collins on prescription drug pricing

Majority Forward is launching its second TV ad in Maine on Tuesday

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is facing what’s likely to be her toughest reelection in 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Maine Sen. Susan Collins is facing what’s likely to be her toughest reelection in 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While national Democrats are keeping up the pressure on Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins over her 2018 vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and her impending role in the Senate impeachment trial, one national issue advocacy group is keeping its anti-Collins message more local. 

Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of the Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Senate Democratic leadership, is hitting Collins over prescription drug costs with a statewide six-figure TV and digital ad campaign beginning Tuesday. 

Collins, who announced she’s running for a fifth term late last month, is a top Democratic target as one of just two Republican senators up for reelection this year in a state Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

Trump lost Maine by about 3 points in 2016, but he overwhelmingly carried the northern 2nd District, where Collins is from, which earned him an additional electoral vote. Collins’ vote for Kavanaugh has energized progressives and moderate voters, who have raised nearly $4 million for her eventual Democratic challenger. 

But Majority Forward’s latest ad, like its first Maine TV spot launched in November, focuses on health care and accountability. 

“Thousands of Mainers are forced to cut their medications in half just to get by,” the narrator says in the ad, which launches Tuesday, as viewers watch an elderly man use a knife to saw his pills in two. “But Susan Collins voted against measures that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs.”

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The ad cites two votes by Collins, one in 2010 and another in 2012, on amendments that Majority Forward says would have allowed brand-name drug companies to continue paying generic drug companies to delay introducing cheaper alternatives into the market.

But Collins is now the co-sponsor of a bipartisan Senate bill that would limit “pay-for-delay” deals. In fact, she was even the co-sponsor of a similar bill at the time of the 2010 vote. 

While Congress as a whole has been mostly unsuccessful in agreeing on significant drug pricing legislation in recent years, as chairwoman of the Senate Aging Committee, Collins has held several hearings about the issue of high prescription drug prices. She’s also one of just a few Senate Republicans who publicly support a controversial bill that would slow drug price growth in Medicare.

The Majority Forward ad also cited Collins’ 2015 vote to invoke cloture on an amendment to repeal the 2010 health care law. (She voted against the 2017 repeal of the law.) 

While Majority Forward’s first Maine ad hit Collins for not holding town hall meetings, this one goes after her for taking $1.4 million from the drug and insurance industries, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

“Collins should work for Mainers, not donors,” the ad says.

As an issue advocacy group, Majority Forward can’t explicitly advocate the election of a particular candidate. 

The group launched a similarly themed ad last month defending Michigan’s Gary Peters, one of two Democratic senators facing reelection  in Trump states.

A Maine-based issue advocacy group called the 16 Counties Coalition has also been shying away from high-profile issues such as the Kavanaugh vote and impeachment, choosing instead to attack Collins in TV ads for voting for the GOP tax overhaul in 2017. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also hit Collins and other vulnerable senators with digital ads on the anniversary of the passage of the GOP tax law.

Collins ranked fifth on CQ Roll Call’s most recent list of the 10 most vulnerable senators. Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who’s running with the support of the DSCC and EMILY’s List, outraised Collins during the third quarter of 2018. But the incumbent retained a cash-on-hand advantage. Neither candidate has released her hauls for the fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Republican. Democrats need a net gain of four Senate seats to retake the chamber, or three if they win the White House since the vice president would be a tie-breaker.

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Andrew Siddons contributed to this report.


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