They may be still counting votes across the nation, but at least one result is clear.

Mainers voted in record numbers to return Sen. Susan Collins to Washington for a fifth term, something no Maine politician has achieved since the Constitution was amended more than a century ago to let voters and not state legislatures pick their U.S. senators.

Collins had a strong showing in every part of the state, winning not only in conservative Aroostook County in northernmost Maine, but also in the more liberal York County in the south. She received a clear majority of the statewide vote, making a ranked-choice voting runoff unnecessary.

Collins’ Democratic challenger, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, acknowledged reality and called Collins to concede the race Wednesday, even before all the precincts had reported.

Collins will go back to Washington as the last Republican representing a New England state in either the House or Senate. That distinction tells the story of this race better than any policy brief or messaging strategy.

Maine voters, who haven’t supported a Republican presidential candidate in 32 years, continue to separate their opinion of Collins from their opinion of her party. More than 50,000 Mainers voted for both Collins and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden instead of voting a straight party ticket. The result is a testament to the enduring bond Collins has forged with many Mainers, even as national politics have become more polarized and partisan.


The Editorial Board did not endorse Collins this year because we were concerned that keeping the Senate in Republican hands would stop progress on issues such as COVID relief and climate action as well as health care and immigration reform. But in the last weeks of the campaign, Collins, anticipating a possible Biden win, explicitly campaigned on what she saw as the benefit of divided government. She said a Republican Senate was needed to provide a check on an overly aggressive liberal agenda.

Collins also stressed that her seniority would give her the clout to bring more federal resources to Maine, no matter who was president. Maine voters have spoken clearly in support of Collins’ view of the case, helping to give what appears likely to be a Republican majority another term in control of the Senate. For the sake of the country, we hope that the Biden-Collins voters were right and we were wrong.

There will be much written about this Senate race, one of the most expensive in history, featuring a relentless barrage of negative television ads. As the final fundraising numbers are reported, we will get a full picture of how much was spent by both sides, but it seems clear at this point that much of it was wasted. Along with pollsters, who universally predicted Gideon as the likely winner in this race, political parties should rethink how they run campaigns like this in the future.

But today, the focus should be on Collins, who made history this year under the most challenging circumstances. In these polarized times, it’s rare to see a candidate with appeal that crosses party lines.

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