U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, raised more than $870,000 for her re-election campaign during the first three months of 2014, nearly tripling her haul from the previous quarter, when the incumbent was outraised by her Democratic opponent.

Collins’ campaign reported having more than $3.6 million in the bank as of March 31 after raising in excess of $877,000 between January and March. She has collected more than $4.5 million for the election cycle as she seeks a fourth six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

The campaign for Collins’ Democratic challenger, Shenna Bellows, has yet to release its fundraising totals for the first quarter.

“We continue to be delighted by the outpouring of support for Sen. Collins’ re-election,” Sam Ladd III, chairman of Collins’ re-election campaign, said in a statement posted on the senator’s campaign website. “From all over Maine, and from every state in our nation, supporters have made it clear that we need Susan Collins’ common-sense leadership in the Senate, now more than ever.”

Collins dramatically stepped up her fundraising with the election less than a year away.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, she raised roughly $315,000 during the final three months of 2013. Bellows, meanwhile, reported raising more than $332,000 during the closing months of 2013.

Although not a substantial difference dollar-wise, the fact that Bellows outraised Collins – a moderate Republican with cross-party appeal in Maine – generated a buzz about the challenger nationally inside progressive and Democratic circles. Nonetheless, Collins still began 2014 with roughly 10 times more money in her campaign coffers than Bellows and is still widely considered to be a safe bet for re-election.

Bellows spokesman Jeff Beam declined to provide figures Thursday for the first three months of 2014 but said “the campaign is very happy with the totals.” He said the campaign would release the figures next week. Candidates are required to file their first-quarter finance reports with the FEC by April 15.

In some ways, the Bellows campaign tried to take credit for Collins’ fundraising success.

Campaign manager Katie Mae Simpson said in a written statement that Collins “obviously sees Shenna Bellows as having major appeal to voters – and has reached out to her corporate lobbyist friends after Shenna’s strong grassroots fundraising last quarter.”

“We look forward to showing Maine voters the contrast between Shenna’s people-powered campaign and Collins’ national Republican and corporate-driven campaign over the next several months, and we look forward to releasing our grassroots fundraising numbers next week,” Simpson said.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@pressherald.com