AUGUSTA — While U.S. Sen. Susan Collins was in Washington on Friday, local residents gathered at her Augusta office to let her know how they feel about Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

About 40 people turned up Friday afternoon at her office in the Edmund S. Muskie Federal Building on Sewall Street to voice their concern or support about Kavanaugh, as the Senate Judiciary Committee deliberated and voted to move his nomination to the Senate floor.

The turnout came one day after Christine Blasey Ford testified before the committee about her allegation of Kavanaugh’s sexual assault against her when they were in high school. Kavanugh also testified before the committee Thursday.

On Friday, the committee sent the nomination to the Senate floor in a 11-10 vote, with U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., giving a ‘yes’ vote on the condition that the vote is delayed a week for an official investigation into the allegations. According to the Associated Press on Friday afternoon, Republican leaders said they would allow an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh for up to one week, and the Judiciary Committee will request that President Donald Trump ask for the probe.

At 4:16 p.m. Friday, Collins tweeted a news release from committee Chairman Chuck Grassley that stated the committee will ask Trump to request the investigation, adding her comment, “I support this sensible agreement.”

Additionally, in the thread, Collins tweeted, “I am pleased to hear Mark Judge has indicated he would cooperate with investigators.”

Mark Winter, Collins’s Augusta office representative, said he met with constituents two at a time. He said the size of his office made him limit the amount of visitors to two at a time. Furthermore, he said, the staff does casework in the office, and a commotion would interrupt that.

“We don’t have a lot of space in here,” he said. “When I get a group of people who come in and we’re not ready, I want to give everybody a fair opportunity … to have a conversation with a staffer a few at a time.”

Winter confirmed that Collins has not made a final decision on her vote.

“She’s continuing to look at all the information and she’s talking to her colleagues,” he said. “Not talking to her colleagues through the news; they just chat.”

Comment forms from the fifth-floor office were given to guards in the ground floor lobby in case constituents did not have time to wait around for a meeting. He said some people wanted to make comments on their lunch break, and they left comments in lieu of an in-person meeting with staff.

“I talked to probably 10 or 15 people in person and I know (other staff) talked to some other people,” he said.

Winter declined to comment on the split of the views of people he met with, but he said he heard from people in support of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He expected a few frantic days in office leading up to the vote and immediately after the vote.

“Until the vote on the floor happens, it’s going to be busy, busy, busy,” he said.

Some of those who went to the office lingered outside and held signs toward vehicles as they drove by on Western Avenue. Reactions were ranged honks of support to cries of dissent and dismissive head shakes from passers-by. One man even threatened to run protesters over, calling Thursday’s hearing a “setup” by the “lefties.”

“People not in favor seem to be yelling, swearing, insulting and making assumptions about who we are,” protester Tova Starbird-DeVos, of Hallowell, said of the reactions. “But how many people have honked in support?”

She said her initial reaction to the testimony was “despair.” She and her husband, Dana DeVos, had errands to run at the Muskie Building, and they decided to stay and hold signs condemning Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“I’m afraid he’s going to be confirmed,” Starbird-DeVos said. “I think it’s more likely than not, given the Republican behavior.”

DeVos said he was not sold on Ford’s credibility until after the hearing. Speaking about Kavanaugh, he said he wasn’t “solidly against” him until after Thursday’s testimony.

“I just had a hard time engaging with him at all,” DeVos said. “He seemed evasive (and) he was attacking the senators.

“This is pretty outrageous, I think, the way this thing has gone through,” he added.

Bia Winter, of Mount Vernon, said Kavanaugh’s testimony strengthened her convictions against his confirmation.

“Snarling and sniveling; is this judicial temperament?” she said. “We’re supposed to feel sorry for him … but we’re not supposed to care about what (Ford) told us.

“It’s hard to believe that (the Republicans) don’t have any other candidate for the Supreme Court that isn’t a sexual predator,” she said.

Bia Winter called Ford a “credible witness” and said the questions asked of Kavanaugh by Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were relevant.

“I know women who were riveted to the TV yesterday who had gone through this,” she said. “It’s just unbelievable what’s going on in this country today.”

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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