U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins will make her much-anticipated announcement about whether she’ll run for governor on Friday, according to her spokeswoman.

The time and location of Collins’ announcement was not disclosed, but the Republican senator is in Maine this week while the Senate is in recess.

The only public event she has scheduled Friday is the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly business breakfast at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, where she will be the featured speaker.

Collins’ decision will have a major impact, not just on the 2018 race for governor in her home state but in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority.

If she runs, she should be the front-runner based on experience and name-recognition. If she chooses to stay in the Senate, where her influence and moderate leanings have made her powerful, the Republican gubernatorial primary field will be wide open.

So far, Mary Mayhew, the former head of Maine’s health and human services department, Republican House Leader Kenneth Fredette and Senate Republican Leader Garrett Mason have declared their candidacies. Each is considered much more conservative than Collins, which could help with primary voters, but none has Collins’ credentials.

On the Democratic side, several candidates have declared: Former State Sen. James Boyle of Sanford, attorney and Maine National Guard veteran Adam Cote of Sanford, former Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, current Maine Attorney General Janet Mills of Farmington, former state Rep. Diane Russell of Portland and lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Augusta.

The candidates are competing to succeed Gov. Paul LePage, who is serving his second term and cannot run again.

Collins first ran for governor in 1994, before her Senate career. She won an eight-way primary for the Republican nomination but then came in third in the general election behind Democrat Joseph Brennan and independent Angus King, who would serve two terms as Maine’s governor and later join Collins in the U.S. Senate.

Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and has been re-elected three times, most recently in 2014 when she handily defeated her Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows. If she stays in the Senate, she would be up for re-election in 2020.

Collins is consistently rated as one of the most popular senators in the country and also one of the most bipartisan. She has defied her party recently on health care-related votes, denying President Trump and his allies an opportunity to make good on a pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Collins has said recently that she has agonized over the decision to either run for governor or stay put in the Senate. She acknowledges how important her vote is in Washington but also believes she could have a more direct impact in creating jobs in Maine if she were governor.

Many of her Senate colleagues, including King, hope she stays in Washington.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, told Politico last week that she’s openly lobbying Collins to stay and she’s apparently not alone.

“She’s so important to the country here,” added Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, to Politico. “We don’t have enough folks like her.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

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