The only active opponent facing Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is hoping to raise money for her campaign with a can and bottle drive.

Danielle Ravyn VanHelsing, an independent from Sangerville, said Monday she is “trying to think outside the box” for ways to fund her bid to unseat Collins in 2020.

Danielle VanHelsing Contributed photo

VanHelsing said she put out a call for supporters to collect cans and bottles to fund her campaign in part because it fits with her pro-environment agenda.

Plus, she said, “Maine is disgusting after winter,” so anything people can do to clean it up is admirable.

“Even if it just cleans up the trash, I’d be happy,” VanHelsing said.

Collins, who is expected this fall to declare her intention to seek a fifth term, has no active Democratic challengers after Dr. Catherine London suspended her campaign this winter. But there are a handful of Democrats eyeing a possible run, including House Speaker Sarah Gideon of Freeport and Zak Ringelstein, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Angus King last year.

Collins had raised $2.6 million by the end of 2018. VanHelsing had raised nothing. A crowdfunded account for whoever the Democrats ultimately pick as their candidate has $3.8 million.

VanHelsing, a transgender woman who has made trans rights a key issue, said trans candidates typically have a hard time raising money for their races so she is trying to think of new approaches to get enough cash to bring her campaign to voters.

The bottle and can drive, she said, “is an opportunity others won’t think of.”

VanHelsing said she has no idea how much, if anything, her drive will raise. But she recalled a high school effort to collect redeemable containers brought in $5,000.

One of the things she learned from her teenage can drive was that many seniors wind up with bags of returnable cans and bottles they cannot bring back because they have no way to do so. She recalled one old woman who had bags nearly filling her kitchen who was ecstatic to hand them over.

VanHelsing said she is surprised that nobody else has gotten into the race.

“Maybe they’re afraid of Collins,” she said, adding she has met the senator a couple of times and is “not particularly intimidated by her.”

To find out more about VanHelsing, see her Facebook page.

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