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Anti-Kavanaugh Protesters Press Maine Senator Who Holds Key Vote


Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins is among a handful of centrist senators who could determine whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed. Collins says she's undecided. And, in her home state, Collins' constituents have been demonstrating and flooding her offices with emails and phone calls. And, this week, the interest in her decision grew even more intense, if that's possible. Steve Mistler from Maine Public Radio has this report.

STEVE MISTLER, BYLINE: In some ways, the senior Senator Collins's Portland office on Friday was like so many others over the past several weeks. A throng of anti-Kavanaugh protesters, about 200 in all, spilled into the street outside. But this, in the immediate aftermath of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, was different. Sarah Skillin Woodard took the bullhorn to express frustration that Ford's heart-wrenching testimony may not have been enough to persuade Collins to oppose Kavanaugh.

SARAH SKILLIN WOODARD: I am shaking mad. I am furious. How many of you are furious?


MISTLER: Woodard leads a progressive group that recruits and trains women candidates, but she wasn't the only one with strong reactions to the hearing. The topic and Collins' pending decision on Kavanaugh dominated Maine Public Radio's daily talk show program on Friday.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I don't know - it just - I just feel like it stood out there, and it was so threatening to me. And she was - she rocked my world.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Senator Collins votes with courage. She takes her job seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: It's shameful. I'm expecting a lot more from her.

MISTLER: Reactions to the hearings and expectations for Collins carried into today. Collins had announced Friday that she supports a last-minute move by the Senate to request a limited FBI investigation into Ford's allegations. But that provided small comfort to Dulcie Whitman, who was shopping today on Main Street in Brunswick. Whitman has never voted for Collins, but she's previously been content with the belief that Maine's senior senator at least considers both sides of an issue before voting. Now, Whitman hopes Collins will consider how a yes vote on Kavanaugh will affect her if she seeks re-election in 2020, and, if she doesn't, how it will affect her political legacy.

DULCIE WHITMAN: I guess I'm hoping that she can hear that her voting yes not only is going to have an effect on individuals, but I'm hoping she hears it's going to have an effect on her politically.

JOHN KISTENMACHER: She's done a better job than 90 percent of the other senators, so I'm very happy with that.

MISTLER: John Kistenmacher has long supported Collins even though he says he's more conservative than she is.

KISTENMACHER: I mean, she doesn't always vote the way I want her to, but I think she votes the way Maine wants her to, which is what her job is.

MISTLER: But for Collins, divining Mainers' wishes has never been more difficult, the pressure on her rarely so intense or sustained.

For NPR News, I'm Steve Mistler in Portland, Maine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Journalist Steve Mistler is MPBN's chief political correspondent and statehouse bureau chief, specializing in the coverage of politics and state government.