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DSCC-backed Sara Gideon wins primary to face Sen. Susan Collins in Maine

Collins is one of two senators running in states Clinton won in 2016

Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins is one of the most vulnerable senators running for reelection.
Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins is one of the most vulnerable senators running for reelection. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

National Democrats got their preferred Senate candidate in Maine on Tuesday night, with state House Speaker Sara Gideon set to take on Sen. Susan Collins and reap a windfall raised to defeat her

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had endorsed Gideon and Air Force veteran MJ Hegar in Texas in races that were decided Tuesday. Hegar won her primary runoff and will face GOP Sen. John Cornyn in November.

Democrats also found out who their most vulnerable senator will face in November, with Alabama Republicans choosing former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville to challenge Sen. Doug Jones. Tuberville ended former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ bid to take back the seat he gave up to join President Donald Trump’s administration.

Collins is one of two Republicans running for reelection in states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

She’s been campaigning forcefully against Gideon for months, long before the primary officially set the matchup. The seat is well within Democrats’ grasp, as Collins’ reputation for independence and political moderation has foundered in the highly charged, deeply polarized Trump era. Resistance to the president and nominees Collins voted to confirm, especially Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, helped fuel her decline as much as Gideon’s rise.

Gideon was leading a three-way Democratic primary with 70 percent of the vote as of 9:32 p.m. Eastern when The Associated Press called the race. Lawyer-activist Betsy Sweet had 22 percent and lawyer Bre Kidman had 8 percent. Collins was unopposed in her primary.

The four-term incumbent, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable members, has lagged Gideon in fundraising. With a little over $5 million in the bank, Collins had less cash on hand than Gideon, who had $5.5 million, as of June 24, according to federal campaign disclosures. And Gideon is now set to collect a roughly $3.7 million windfall of donations set up for Collins’ opponent in a campaign established before her vote to confirm Kavanaugh. 

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Spending from outside groups and party committees is already well underway with millions of dollars infused into the race. That promises to pick up heading into November. The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent nearly $1.8 million in spots against Gideon before Tuesday’s primary, while the Collins-supporting 1820 PAC has disclosed more than $1 million spent for the incumbent. End Citizens United, a group that pushes candidates to support campaign finance overhauls, disclosed forking over nearly $1.8 million against Collins. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Maine Senate race a Toss-up

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