AUGUSTA — A teacher and activist from Solon is exploring a potential run against Sen. Susan Collins on the Green Independent Party ticket.

Lisa Savage, an environmental and peace activist, plans to announce on Thursday that she is setting up an exploratory committee to decide whether to seek her party’s nomination to challenge Collins in 2020. If she enters the race, Savage would join one other Green Independent candidate, David Gibson, as well as five Democrats and at least one independent who have declared their intentions to run against Collins should the Republican decide to seek a fifth term in the Senate.

Lisa Savage Photo courtesy of Lisa Savage

If any of the Green or independent candidates qualify for the November ballot, their entry would trigger the use of ranked-choice voting during the election. The ranked-choice tabulation process would only come into play if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on the first tally. However, last year’s race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District demonstrated how the ranked-choice system can affect the final outcome of the election.

“People are fed up with business as usual in Washington DC,” Savage said in a statement on Monday. “The political establishment has brought us endless wars abroad, impoverished us at home, and sold our democracy to the highest bidder. Now we have an historic opportunity in this first Senate race with ranked-choice voting, which gives everyone the freedom to vote for the greater good. We’ve never had a better opportunity – or a more urgent need – for a people-powered campaign to make history.”

Candidates hoping to win the Republican, Democratic and Green Independent nominations for Senate must collect at least 2,000 signatures from registered voters within their respective parties in order to qualify for the June primaries. Unenrolled candidates must collect 4,000 signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Savage is a public school teacher who also has served as vice president and chief negotiator for the local chapter of Maine Education Association union. She is a vocal advocate for environmental and climate issues and has been among the activists calling on Bath Iron Works to convert its Navy destroyer program to building components of the “clean energy” economy or mass transit.

Maine’s Senate race is drawing national attention and money as Republicans attempt to retain the seat and control of the chamber. Collins has not yet officially announced whether she will seek another term, although she is fundraising aggressively ahead of what could be the toughest re-election campaign of her career.

Neither Savage nor Gibson has filed candidacy paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. Five Democrats have registered as candidates with the FEC: Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, progressive advocate and lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell, attorney Bre Kidman of Saco, retired Air Force Major Gen. Jonathan Treacy of Oxford and Bangor resident Michael Bunker. Independent Danielle VanHelsing has also filed paperwork, although additional unenrolled candidates could enter the race.

In last year’s 2nd Congressional District race, incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin led by 2,600 votes after the first round of voting but didn’t secure a majority, triggering a ranked-choice runoff. Democrat Jared Golden surged past Poliquin after the second- or third-choice preferences of two independents in the race – Tiffany Bond and William Hoar – were reallocated to the two front-runners by a computer using the ranked-choice software. Golden won enough votes in that round to secure a majority.

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