U.S. Sen. Susan Collins talks Thursday morning with Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce owner Matthew Manson at his store on Minot Avenue in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — When 11-year-old Brodie Lavoie spotted U.S. Sen. Susan Collins at Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce on Thursday, he squealed, “Oh, the lady on the ads!”

The Maine Republican asked the fifth-grader from Buckfield what he thought about going back to the classroom.

He did not hesitate.

“I want to be in school,” Lavoie said.

“We live in the middle of pretty much nowhere,” Lavoie told the senator, who told him she understood because she grew up in Caribou.

“That’s a no man’s land,” said Nina Lavoie, the boy’s grandmother, who said she had never ventured that far north in Maine.

No, Collins said, it is actually “God’s country” up there.

After meeting with Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce owner Matthew Manson, right, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins selects some freshly picked corn from his fields up the road in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Collins, who lives in Bangor, has come a long way from her beloved Caribou, rising to become the most-senior Republican woman in the U.S. Senate and one of its longest-serving members, as she approaches the end of her fourth term in office.

Her hotly contested bid to win a fifth term brought her to Auburn to speak to the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and tour a couple of businesses that benefited from receiving forgivable loans from the Paycheck Protection Program that Collins pushed as part of the pandemic relief approved in the spring.

Collins discussed a range of issues at each stop, from the selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential pick to the need for swift action on more COVID-19 relief.

Collins is seeking another six-year term in a race pitting her against Democrat Sara Gideon, the state House speaker from Freeport; independent Lisa Savage, an educator from Solon; and Max Linn, an independent from Bar Harbor. The election is Nov. 3.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins addresses the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Breakfast on Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

During a stop at The Strainrite Companies, a liquid filtration products manufacturing company in Auburn, Collins said that while it is a close race, she has had “very tough” ones in the past and come out on top. And she hopes to do it again, despite the many negative advertisements on television and social media.

Collins told the chamber that if she were in charge on Capitol Hill, she would bring back the Senate next week to deal with stalled pandemic package by having members begin voting on issue after issue.

“Have people step up to the plate,” Collins said.

She said policies that have wide support could be approved first. Then, senators could focus and act on more-controversial issues.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins speaks Thursday morning with Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce owner Matthew Manson, center, at his store on Minot Avenue. Collins talked to several customers and workers, including Ralph Sylvester, 96 and a World War II veteran, who helps out around the business. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Senate has yet to approve a plan for a new round of relief. The Democratic-controlled House backed a $3 trillion measure in May that has not been dealt with in the Senate. The White House and legislative leaders are negotiating off and on, but there has not been a deal.

Hours after Collins urged colleagues to vote quickly on relief measures, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky adjourned the Senate until Sept. 8 without taking up any of them. He can bring lawmakers back early, though, with a 24-hour notice.

Collins said she had no idea what the timeline might be for something to pass.

Collins said she was especially eager to see a new round of forgivable loans for employers, more money for testing, more money for schools, more aid to local governments, more help for child care and more dollars to improve broadband access.

“We’ve got to work together and get this done,” Collins said.

About 100 people attended Thursday’s Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Breakfast either in person or virtually.

During the chamber session at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch, Collins was applauded for winning a new honor from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: the Jefferson-Hamilton Bipartisanship Award.

Suzanne Clark, president of the national chamber, said Collins is the conductor of the “getting things done train” in Washington, a politician who not only reaches across the aisle to political opponents but works with them to reach accord.

Collins decried the extreme partisanship across the country these days.

“I remain committed to building bridges, bringing people together and identifying common ground,” Collins said. “We need to rebuild the sense of community and caring in this country.”

But she was not entirely focused on her campaign or the necessities of government business.

At Blackie’s, she picked out some produce, including a few ears of fresh corn, to bring home for dinner.

“This will make my husband happy,” Collins said.

She was also excited to spot a pint of wild blueberries.

“Look at the beautiful berries,” she said. “The first ones that I’ve seen this year.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.