Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, heads to the Senate chamber for votes Thursday at the Capitol in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

By a 2-to-1 ratio, the Maine Republican Party’s state committee voted Saturday against a censure of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins over her vote last month to convict former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.

Former Republican state Sens. Roger Katz and Kevin Raye, who have been publicly critical of Trump, also avoided censures, although by narrower margins.

“Today’s decision is a testament to the Republican Party’s ‘big tent’ philosophy that respects different views but unites around core principles,” Collins said in a statement. “Our party has been most successful when it has embraced this approach to advance our shared goals of providing tax relief to families and small business job creators, pursuing fiscal responsibility and government accountability, promoting personal responsibility, protecting constitutional rights, and ensuring a strong national defense.”

Collins was re-elected to a fifth Senate term last November, defeating Democratic challenger Sara Gideon by a margin of 51-42 percent. She is the only Republican member of Congress from New England.

Despite her latest victory, many Republicans expressed displeasure over her less-than-full-throated support of the former president. That came to a head in February, when she joined six other Republican senators in voting to convict Trump at his impeachment trial for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Trump was acquitted.

Collins had previously voted in February 2020 not to convict Trump at his first impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstructing Congress related to allegations that he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, of course, went on to derail Trump’s re-election bid last year and is now president.

Some Maine Republican Party members wanted to punish Collins for her vote to convict the former president. About three dozen Maine GOP officials, including Chairwoman Demi Kouzounas, sent a letter last month to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the senator’s actions. But some felt that wasn’t enough and pushed for a more formal censure.

Last weekend, Republican Party leaders in Aroostook County, where Collins was born and raised, issued a resolution that described the impeachment proceeding as “illegal, unethical, unconstitutional” and said Collins’ action “undermines the conservative and ethical values promoted by Aroostook County Republicans.”

But there wasn’t nearly enough support among the full state committee for a censure. The motion failed, 41-19.

“We had a great Maine GOP meeting this morning and now we consider the matter settled,” Kouzounas said in an email Saturday. “The party is moving on to the work that wins elections.”

Collins avoided the fate of other Republican members of Congress who supported impeachment. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming were all censured by their state parties.

Raye and Katz, both moderates who are no longer in elected positions, also were targeted by some Maine Republican Party leaders for their public criticism of former President Trump, which included a joint op-ed last year in which they said they supported Biden.

Each survived a bid to censure them by the state committee.

Raye, of Perry, served in the Maine Senate for four terms between 2004 and 2012 and was Senate president in his final term. He also ran unsuccessfully for Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat three times and was former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s chief of staff for many years. Raye owns and operates Raye’s Mustard Mill.

“It is good to know that the majority of the Republican state committee stood against the short-sighted attempt to impose purity of thought on members of a party who have traditionally stood tall for individual rights and individual responsibility,” Raye said in a statement Saturday. “To be successful statewide, the Maine GOP needs the support of those voters who provided the decisive margin of victory for both Senator Collins and President Biden.”

Katz, an attorney formerly of Augusta, also served four terms in the Maine Senate from 2010-2018. Before that, he was mayor of Augusta for six years.

Roger Katz

He disagreed with Collins’ assessment that Saturday’s votes were proof that Republicans embrace a “big tent” philosophy

“First of all, shame on the state committee for even considering censure of Senate Collins. What a joke,” Katz said in a statement. “With respect to Kevin and me, the fact that almost half the committee voted to censure is more a commentary on the state party than us. And it’s a sad commentary at that.

“The GOP party structure used to stand for something. Today, it is a cult that apparently welcomes only those who swear allegiance to a dangerous demagogue, or at least keep their mouths shut if they don’t. So much for being a big tent.”

Katz said he hopes rank-and-file Republicans move away from personality-driven leaders like Trump and return to Republicans like Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen and Snowe.

“If not, I believe Republicans in Maine will slide into irrelevance.”


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