On Aug. 20, hundreds of Mainers from the Portland area gathered at the Portland Public Library in hopes of having the opportunity to engage in a discussion with Sen. Collins regarding her stances on many public issues. However, Collins did not show, angering many of her constituents.
A long-time supporter of the town hall meeting and its ability to bridge the gap in communication between elected officials and their constituents, Collins herself has not held a public town hall in over two decades. In the past, Collins praised the forum as being part of “unvarnished, direct democracy.” However, during the August Senate recess, didn’t show at two publicly organized town hall meetings to discuss public interests with Mainers.
Since her vote in support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year, Collins has been at the center of discussion for many Mainers. Her vote, which was key in confirming Kavanaugh, angered many of her constituents, as well as voters around the country. For many years, Collins campaigned as a moderate voice when confronted with issues surrounding reproductive justice and often voiced her support for women’s rights groups, but her vote for Kavanaugh, who was at the center of a sexual assault allegations, served to aggravate her public image. In the year since Kavanaugh was confirmed, Collins’ approval rating has taken a dive.
To exacerbate matters more, Collins’ political interests have been a point of contention for Maine voters. Much of her campaign fundraising has come from out of state interest groups, and only 3% of her campaign money can be directly tied to Maine donors, which has piqued interest and sparked questions that seek to determine Collins’ true agenda.
Recently, Collins has come under fire for attending a private fundraiser with Leonard Leo, who has become known as President Trump’s “judge whisperer.” Some feel as though she should be prioritizing the importance of having an open dialogue with her constituents rather than attending private social events with senior members of the White House.
“It is my sincere hope that Senator Collins will finally agree to attend public town halls where she can listen to her constituents because Mainers are genuine in their desire to have a healthy dialogue with their senior senator,” Kathleen Mara, the chair of the Maine Democratic Party, said.
Collins has been criticized for voting in favor of special interests, as her voting allowed Republicans to pass a controversial tax law which cut federal tax rates. Due to Republican interest, the corporate tax rate fell from 23% to 12% from 2017 to 2018, while economic growth stagnated.
Collins has also contributed to efforts to overturn the health care law which enables the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010. The ACA is currently being appealed in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration. The lawsuit, if successful, could remove 20 million people from eligibility granted to them under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
A week after not showing at the Portland Public Library, Collins once again did not show at the Bangor Public Library on Aug. 29. Another town hall, organized in Collins’ hometown, was attended by dozens of Mainers who had hopes of holding an open discussion with Collins.
As Collins’ personal interests generate more and more public discussion, her likelihood of reelection in 2020 may drop drastically. In a poll conducted over this past summer and published in the Portland Press Herald, Collin’s approval rating dropped 16 points from April to July. While 42% of the people surveyed approve of Collins and her performance, 48% of those polled do not.
Collins has not responded to any attempts to discuss her failure to appear at both the Portland and Bangor town hall, much to the frustration of many voters.