Demi Kouzounas speaks about inflation during a news conference in Portland in November 2022 when she was chairwoman of the Maine Republican Party. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Former Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas announced Friday that she plans to run against Sen. Angus King for his U.S. Senate seat this fall.

Kouzounas said Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, called to encourage her to challenge King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

A spokesman for King said the senator was disappointed to learn Collins had recruited a challenger, while an aide to Collins said she believes it’s important for Republicans to have a good candidate in the race.

In an interview with conservative radio host Ray Richardson on WLOB, Kouzounas said she decided to join the race after Collins called her. A Brunswick Democrat also has announced he would run, but until Friday no Republican had stepped forward.

“To have a senator go unopposed is terrible,” Kouzounas said in the interview. She also believes that Mainers need another woman representing them, and emphasized her experiences as a veteran, a small-business owner and a lifelong Mainer.

“I look up to Senator Collins, she’s done so much for our state,” Kouzounas told Richardson in the interview.


Kouzounas, who is a dentist from Saco, has been active in the Republican party for more than a decade. She lost a bid for a seat in the Maine House in 2012 and later became leader of the state party organization.


“Senator Collins thinks very highly of Demi and considers her a good friend,” Collins’ spokesperson, Annie Clark, said in a written statement. “Demi is known for her passion for public service, including her time in the military and her work providing dental services to Maine families who otherwise would not have access to care.”

Clark said Collins, a Republican, often talks to people considering running for public office, both in Maine and across the country.

“She believes that it is important for the Republicans to have a quality candidate in the U.S. Senate race,” she said, though she also noted that Collins does not plan to make a formal endorsement in the race, as has been her practice in Senate races in which one of her colleagues is running.

King’s office said in a statement that he is disappointed Collins “appears to have actively recruited a Republican candidate to run against him.”


But his staff said, “that won’t change a single thing in the collaborative approach he brings to the Senate everyday, and he certainly intends to continue to work with Senator Collins on behalf of Maine, just as he always has in the past.”

Although he is an independent, King caucuses with Democrats. King, who is 79, was first elected to the Senate in 2012. He served as Maine governor from 1995 to 2003 after defeating Collins in 1994. King registered 60% approval in a national poll last year, making him the nation’s fifth-most popular senator. He has said this will likely be his last congressional run.

Kouzounas is a graduate of Thornton Academy, the University of Maine at Orono and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She also completed post graduate training at the 86th Medical Detachment at Giessen, West Germany, according to a bio on the website of her Scarborough dental office, Dunstan Dental Center, which she opened with her husband, Joseph Penna, in 1986.

Kouzounas did not respond to a message left at her office or an email Friday seeking an interview.

She is also the previous owner at Northwoods Dental in Skowhegan, according to her Facebook page. She helped start Bright Smiles, a dental clinic for low-income children in Portland, and co-founded Dentists Who Care for ME, a program to provide free dental care for those who need it.



On the radio, she said she served in the military overseas during the Cold War. “We don’t treat our veterans good enough,” she said. “A lot of those veterans coming through Germany, when I was there, had just served in the Vietnam War, and there was a lot of perspective there for me.”

Kouzounas also said she can speak to issues important to women because she is a health care provider and because she was assaulted in college. “I understand that perspective,” she said.

And she said she has first-hand knowledge of addiction issues “because it was my son’s addiction that got me involved in politics in the first place.”

Kouzounas said she is a grandmother of three and that “I want the world to be better for them.”

She entered politics with the failed run for the Maine House of Representatives in 2012 but remained active in state Republican politics before becoming chair of the party in 2017.

She was ousted from that role in 2023 after a tough election cycle for Republicans. The party lost multiple seats in the state Legislature in 2022 as Democrats remained strong in coastal communities and flipped inland seats.

Kouzounas said in the radio interview Friday that she is working on putting together a team and plans to be in York County over the weekend collecting signatures to officially make it on the ballot.

David Costello, a 62-year-old Brunswick Democrat, entered the race last April, becoming King’s first challenger. At the time, Costello said that he’s not really running against King, whom he called “a very intelligent, thoughtful person,” but said he was entering the contest as an “extreme long shot” because he wants to promote what he calls a reform agenda that would modernize the country’s government.

King has yet to formally announce his reelection campaign but has been active on his campaign website,, since last May. He also has raised about $2.2 million toward a reelection bid, according to federal campaign finance reports.

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