By John Celock
Republican hopes of regaining control of the U.S. Senate are on step easier as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) holds a big lead in her bid for a fourth term.
A poll by Rasmussen Reports, released on Monday shows Collins easily leading Democrat Shenna Bellows 60 percent to 24 percent. The poll comes as the Senate map expands with Republicans gaining competitive candidates in additional states, including Colorado and New Hampshire.
Collins, a leading moderate Republican, has easily defeated past challengers in Maine. The Senate race comes as the state sees one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the country. Gov. Paul LePage (R), long ranked as one of the most unpopular governors nationally, faces U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and independent Eliot Cutler in the race. Democrats have feared a repeat of Cutler’s strong showing in the 2010 race, which helped send LePage to Blaine House.
Bellows has spent the last eight years as executive director of the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, following years in various advocacy positions in Maine and nationally. She is also a former Peace Corps and VISTA volunteer.
Last week, Bellows challenged Collins to lead the Maine Republican Party in dropping opposition to marriage equality in the state, which legalized in a referendum several years ago. Collins has long remained silent on the issue, saying it is a state not a federal issue.
Bellows has also been trumpeting her labor backing in the race against Collins.