February 9

Washington Notebook: Maine's congressional delegation ranks in center and left

Sen. Susan Collins ranked as the most moderate Republican in 2013; Maine’s House delegation ranked as fourth most liberal in the nation.

WASHINGTON — It’s the season of comparisons on Capitol Hill when media organizations, polling firms and other groups crunch last year’s votes to assess who falls where on the political spectrum.

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Sen. Susan Collins

Telegram File Photo

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine ranked as the most moderate Republican in the 2013 edition of National Journal’s annual survey of members based on how they voted on selected issues. The news organization analyzed 117 particular votes (eliminating most non-substantive issues) as part of its 33rd annual survey. Collins was also ranked as the most moderate Republican in 2012.

Another vote study by CQ Roll Call also ranked Collins as the most moderate Republican in the Senate based on the percent of times she voted the same way as the Obama administration’s clearly stated position on an issue.

In both surveys, Collins was immediately followed by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski – with whom Collins often works – and Arizona Sen. John McCain. The most moderate senator overall, as calculated by the smallest margin between their liberal and conservative scores, was Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was also relatively close to the middle, ranking as the 43rd most liberal and 57th most conservative senator in the National Journal survey. But that means there were 11 Democrats whose voting records were more conservative than the Maine independent.

In case you’re wondering, the most extreme senators were Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, on the far right and a three-way tie on the far left between Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Maine’s two U.S. House members – Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Mike Michaud of the 2nd District – were both seated on the left side of the chamber.

Pingree ranked as the 30th most liberal House member, meaning there were more than 400 other representatives to the right of her.

Michaud, who is running for governor this year, ranked as the 148th most liberal and 282nd most conservative House member.

Interestingly, Michaud shares the 148 slot with fellow Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire and was just one spot ahead of the Granite State’s other representative, Democrat Carol Shea Porter. Total coincidence or a sign of regional political symmetry?

According to the National Journal, Maine’s U.S. House delegation ranked as the fourth most-liberal in the country behind our apparently similarly left-leaning cousins from top-ranked Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. (Connecticut was just below Maine while New Hampshire rounded out the Top 10).

Of course, there’s an important caveat here. It’s a lot easier to get a lopsided state average when a state’s House delegation only consists of two people (Maine, Rhode Island and New Hampshire) much less a single congressman (Vermont).

Massachusetts’ high liberal ranking – even with nine House members – probably won’t surprise anyone.

So where did Congress stand overall in the studies? On incredibly partisan ground, not surprisingly.

Roll Call found that members of the party in power in both chambers – Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House – voted unanimously more often in 2013 than in any other time during the decades-long survey.

National Journal’s headline pretty much summed up the year: “The Most Divided Congress Ever, At Least Until Next Year.”


Erick Bennett, a declared opponent of Collins in the Republican primary, officially filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission recently to run as a candidate.

Bennett is the founder of the Maine Equal Rights Center, a conservative group formed to oppose legalized same-sex marriage in the state. A self-described political consultant and strategist, Bennett has pledged to run on constitutional issues. But he has garnered more attention recently about how he says he was falsely convicted of domestic violence and how that experience could inform – indeed, even help – his political career.

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