LEWISTON — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins stopped by Simones’ Hot Dog Stand in downtown Wednesday as part of her re-election bus tour.

Collins, seeking her fourth term in the Senate, is facing Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows in the November election.

Collins is on the first three-day leg of a more than 350-mile “All of Maine” tour that began in Bangor on Tuesday.

Collins carried the city of Lewiston with broad support when she was re-elected in 2008. She said winning the city again is a top goal of her campaign in 2014.

“I was very honored last time when Lewiston gave me its support,” Collins said. “I’m hoping we can repeat that performance.”

When she first won the statewide U.S. Senate race in 1996, the city voted for her Democratic opponent and did so again in 2002.

The campaign of this year’s opponent got a boost from outside with a $300,000 television advertisement blitz being funded by Democracy for America, which launched a two-week campaign against Collins on Wednesday.

“Democracy for America knows that Bellows is running one of the best grassroots campaigns of the cycle, so we’re investing serious resources to help her end Susan Collins’ career in the Senate,” the PAC’s communications director, T. Neil Sroka, wrote in a message to the Sun Journal on Wednesday. The progressive political action committee is headquartered in South Burlington, Vt.

Advertisements set to run on television statewide criticize Collins for her support of income tax breaks for the “ultra-wealthy while voting against common-sense measures to protect the livelihoods of working-class Americans,” according to a news release.

“Susan Collins caved in to Mitch McConnell and the tea party,” the narrator in the television spot says. “Susan Collins turned her back on working people and turned her back on the middle class.”

The advertisement also criticizes Collins’ opposition to hiking the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour as proposed by President Barack Obama.

Collins has said she would support a minimum wage increase but doesn’t support an increase to $10.10 per hour. Maine’s minimum wage is $7.50 per hour.

Lance Dutson, a spokesman for Collins’ campaign, described Democracy for America as an out-of-state SuperPAC and said Bellows’ connection to it shows how desperate her campaign is. 

“Desperation has set in with the Bellows campaign,” Dutson said in a message to Maine media. “Last week, they released an internal poll showing her losing by 24 percent and garnering the support of only 64 percent of Democrats. Yesterday, the Maine Democratic Party sent a tracker to watch Sen. Collins and dozens of her supporters eat ice cream at Gifford’s Ice Cream stand in Skowhegan. And today, Shenna’s allies began running negative ads designed to attract the support of Democrats.”

Collins’ tour bus on Wednesday was heading to Hiram, Cornish, Limerick, Waterboro, East Waterboro, Alfred, Springvale and Sanford, winding up at Mill 67 for a happy hour from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The tour was to restart at 8:15 a.m. Thursday at Congdon’s Donut Shop in Wells before moving on to Kittery, Saco, Scarborough, Portland and Bath.

Bellows said during her visit to Lewiston earlier this month, as she was completing a 350-mile walk from Houlton to Kittery, that she met many voters who told her the country was on the wrong track.

“They are tired of being taken for granted and not listened to,” Bellows said. “They want a leader who will stand up for jobs and the economy all of the time and who will be accountable to real people and the grassroots and not big money.”

She added, “I’m excited about the momentum my campaign is picking up and if we win all of the Democrats, we will win Lewiston. If we win Lewiston, we will win this race.”

Bellows said the Democracy for America PAC was a grassroots group with many Maine supporters and donors. “We are thrilled to receive grassroots support from their members in Maine,” she said.


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