LEWISTON – When Republican Sen. Susan Collins learned she had beaten her Democratic opponent Tom Allen in the heavily Democratic city of Lewiston, she said it was the “highlight of the evening.”

Early in her campaign for a third term in the U.S. Senate, Collins had made it a goal to win in the cities of Lewiston and Auburn. She did.

In Lewiston, she topped Allen with 55 percent of the vote to his 45 percent, and in Auburn the margin was greater, with Collins drawing 61 percent to Allen’s 39 percent, according to unofficial results.

At noon Wednesday, Collins swung her campaign bus by Simones’ Hot Dog Stand to thank Lewiston voters for her win.

“It’s an honor for us, having her come in,” said Jimmy Simones, who attended Collins’ victory party at the Eastland Hotel in Portland on Tuesday evening. His daughter, Melissa, worked in Collins’ Washington, D.C., office, and most recently worked in the Maine GOP Lewiston office to help campaign for Republican candidates up and down the ticket.

Cindy Foss of Lewiston, a server at Simones’, made and hung large signs by the entrance of the restaurant reading, “Congratulations to our #1 girl!!” at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

“In my opinion, she’s so down to earth; very comfortable,” Foss said of Collins.

Collins said she was “delighted” with the win.

“I am on Cloud 9 because my dream came true: I carried Lewiston,” she said at about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Today, Collins gave credit to the voters.

“I think they recognized that I share many of their values and hopes,” she said.

Winning the city of Lewiston as a Republican has proven difficult in past elections. Collins lost it in her first two bids for Senate, and even Sen. Olympia Snowe, an Auburn native, lost it in her first attempt. Another popular Republican, Sen. Bill Cohen, also lost Lewiston in 1990, during his final Senate race.

About 47 percent of Lewiston’s registered voters are Democrats, according to records from the Secretary of State’s office. Only 17 percent are registered Republicans.

Collins said her work on behalf of specific issues that affect Lewiston, such as securing funding for the Franco-American Heritage Center and passing legislation that enabled minor league professional athletes, such as the Lewiston Maineiacs, to obtain the same work visas as major league players, were crucial to her win here. The endorsements by Auburn Mayor John Jenkins, an independent, and Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, a Democrat, also helped, Collins said.

She and Allen spent many of their final campaign days in Lewiston-Auburn, with Allen even helping a Lewiston family weatherize their home on the Sunday before Election Day. At a recent rally for Democratic candidates held at the Franco-American Heritage Center, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who was speaking in support of Allen, probably summed it up best.

“If you can’t win Lewiston-Auburn as a Democrat, you can’t win the statewide election,” he said.

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